Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Home - Part II

So this series is about what home means.  The last installment was about what "home" meant to me as a child.  But just like in nature, things that make a home change as you get older.  And that's where we are right now.

As I am sure most high school students do, I was eager and waiting to turn 18 years old so that the world would see me as an adult.  As if magically on my birthday, the world's perception of me would drastically shift.  Not so much.  When I turned 18, I was still in my senior year of high school with a couple months to go until graduation.  Nothing changed that day. 

But I did have a plan in place.  My senior year was light on the school front, I had loaded up on classes for 3 years so I would only have half days my last year.  I had a few part time jobs and I saved all my money and began to acquire and stockpile linens, housewares, dishes, etc.  I even had a roommate lined up.  My plan was simple - the minute I was handed my diploma, I was planning my escape.

My dreams of college were put on hold because I didn't want to start my life horribly in debt and my mother was unwilling to help with any college expenses regardless of how many partial scholarships I'd been offered or how many schools I got into.  I was on my own.

For months after I graduated, I scoured the rental ads for a place that me and 1 roommate could afford.  As it was San Jose, CA...that was quite a tall order.  But late in the summer, my mom got a phone call from a friend saying there was a 3 bedroom apartment available in her building for less than what my mom was paying for a 2 bedroom.  She jumped on and dragged me to see the place.  Hmmmm...right on the bus line to work, nice building and neighborhood, gasp - cheap rent.  And look!  A 2 bedroom also available. 

Down side - next door to the place my mom wanted.  I waited until my mom went to work on Monday and called her friend to get a rental application.  I filled it out, and waited to hear.  I didn't tell my mom anything about it.  The day she found out she'd gotten the apartment she wanted, I found out I was finally free.

There was a meltdown that I won't bore you with.  But, the minute I paid my security deposit and the first month's rent and stood in that tiny empty apartment, I felt just peaceful.  That ugly green shag carpeting and 70s linoleum were absolutely breath-taking because they were in my house.  My house that had a dead bolt on the front door and none of my mother's rules or drama.  Freedom was a 550 sq foot apartment with a bedroom my furniture barely fit in and a shared bathroom with a friend.  My home had a tiny hideous loveseat from Goodwill and a really ugly orange velour chair that was amazingly comfortable, hand me down dining table/chairs and tons of garage sale kitchenware but it was mine.  All mine.

Home was a space of my own where I was allowed to be whomever I wanted to be and feel however I wanted to feel with the power to tell anyone who didn't like it to leave. 

Home - Part I

A lot of different emotions and mental pictures come to mind when I think of that word. What is home? Four walls with a roof and rooms… pictures of memories and the people that live there? I’ve been thinking about home the past few days, what it was, has been and what it is now.
The thing I remember most from home as a child is stair landings. The houses changed throughout the years, and sometimes that stair landing was just a bend in a hallway, but that landing/bend in the hallway, was home.

When I was little, if I was upset, angry or somehow not what my mom wanted to deal with, I was sent to my room and told I couldn’t come down until I was ready to act the way I was supposed to. It was never about the why. Why was I upset, sad, angry or whatever? The why never seemed to matter.

I remember for years my mom boasting about how I always just went to my room until I could calm down…like it was some big accomplishment of hers somehow. She loved to tell the story of how it all started. With me, at age 4, getting upset about being teased by my parents, and storming up to my room with my parents laughing at me all the way there.

So up I went to my room, and I remember that landing…the turn in the stairs where my mom couldn’t see me anymore, where I was allowed to finally feel the way I actually felt. I spent a lot of time in my room over the years. I learned from a very early age that whenever I couldn’t smile and act like everything was perfect…when I couldn’t hold the façade in place anymore, I went to my room.

The smile, the façade, just needed to hold until I got to that stair landing or bend in the hallway. Then I could be me. I was allowed to cry, or be hurt, or angry, or frustrated…and sometimes just peaceful. I would shut my bedroom door and sit silently until I was able to slip the façade back into place and hold it there.

Until I was able to pretend I felt exactly how I was supposed to feel, be what I was supposed to be.