On a visit back to my hometown, I decided it was time to go find the old 2-story farmhouse that I recall many memories from my early years. And since we only lived there a short time, I find it particularly surprising that I have so many memories of this old wooden house on the outskirts of town.
This adventure to find my old house started about 2 years after I got sober. I had entered into another brief stint with my ex, and we had just had another one of our explosive fights. One cold afternoon in November, we argued in his house as we had always done, and instead of turning around and walking away from a situation that I never should have been in, I turned into a bawling 5-year-old again, unable to control my crying. The unfolding of these events came as a shock to me, not because I was immune to inconsolable crying when we fought, but this time was supposed to be different in the fact that I thought that I was “better”. Despite the fact that these events were pretty typical for our arguments, I thought that after so much time and work on my part that I had grown immune to turning into a puddle of tears when we argued. Later that day, when asked by a close friend to identify a moment in time in which I felt the exact same, I pulled a particular memory out of my assortment of hat tricks. Imagine the surprise I felt after realizing the connection, or lack thereof, between my ex-boyfriend and a childhood memory.
The memory itself, painful and scary, was formed when I lived in the old farmhouse. In those days, it was still pretty common to find kids playing in the streets and wondering around the neighborhood unsupervised. It was 1982, a time when the kidnapping and murder of Adam Walsh had just occurred but had not gotten national attention yet. Those days still had some sanctity of safeness to them, people still left their doors unlocked, and I still ran around the neighborhood at the tender age of 5.
One evening I wondered across the street to find a little girl that I had played with the day before. I meekly knocked on the front door of my neighbor’s house and asked for my friend. Instead of my sweet girlfriend, I found her bully of an older sister. The nice sister was gone. Despite our age gap, the older sister told me she wanted to play airplanes and asked me to stay. Confusion slowly seeped in as she led me into their yard, which was full of clutter and abandoned pieces of equipment. Looking back, I wonder if it was some sort of salvage yard, but that question would go unanswered, at least for the time being. She took me into a very small abandoned airplane that was big enough for the two of us to crawl into and face each other. We had to sit down in order for our heads to not hit the roof; it was cramped and only big enough for small children. She began quizzing me about the previous day. Why had I played with her sister? What had we played? What toys did we play with? The little girl in me could not understand her dishonesty in luring me away from the safety of the house. I felt trapped and overwhelmed. I cried and begged her to stop, “Let me go!” I begged. She forced me to stay and yelled at me and pulled my hair and ears. She said I was not going anywhere until she was done with me. I begged, pleaded, and tears poured from my tender eyes; silently I wondered why no one had started searching for me yet. Did they know I had left; were they mad at me for leaving? Would they know where to look for me?
After what seemed like an eternity to a small child, and for whatever reason, she finally let me go. I immediately ran home and stood on the front porch of the old farmhouse when my mom and sister opened the door. They found a hysterical little girl inconsolable and barely able to describe what had just happened. I sobbed so hard that I could barely get the details out. I cannot recall a time since when I was so elated to see a familiar face, much less my Mother. I began to feel safe again and relieved that I made it back home. I have noticed that young children have problems judging a span of time, and one quick moment can feel as if it lasts for hours.
Other incidents occurred in the rural neighborhood of the old house; we had numerous reasons for a quick departure. For one, I seemed prone to electrocution in and around the house. When I brushed my teeth, the water felt like it had “sparks” inside. Additionally, while spending my days indoors I played on the attic steps looking up into the dark abyss wondering what went on up there beyond the threshold of the doorway. My young curiosity was piqued and apprehension followed and not far behind…pretty much a common theme that carried over into my adult life. After a short time, my mom packed us all up and we moved back to the small trailer that we had just left behind less than a year prior.
Some 35 years later, my sister and I went to find the old farmhouse, and she had remembered exactly how to get there. As we turned onto the dirt road, a child’s stuffed animal lay in the middle of the road, almost as if time had stopped suddenly, and I was 5 again. I was keenly aware that this was the neighborhood we had lived in, but there was no house. We drove up to the spot where we knew the house had been, and after further investigation, we finally found the ruined remains of a structure. The house had burned to the ground and the lot littered with charred remains. Nobody had cared that this house burned; nobody cared to clean it up either. Puzzled, my sister and I got out of our car and walked around the structure. I saw the remains of the old porch that I stood on crying that day long ago. I noticed the smallness of the foundation, which seemed larger than life when I lived there. The most important thing I found was closure and a sort of peace knowing that the farmhouse was gone; this house had been destroyed by fire no less. I’m driven by the notion that, what if fire was the only way this dark part of my life could have been put to rest? I wonder if fire, being the primordial energy that it is, was the only way to release the negativity that seemed to be concentrated in this certain spot. I was no stranger to fire either, and had experienced it at a different time in my life, when my late sister had passed. Her home had also burned to the ground only a week after she died in the hospital.