The sound of my childhood bed room door echoed as I opened it. I stood in the middle of the tiny blue room and imagined everything just as it was when I was 12 — my twin bed with a starry comforter, a collage on one wall of magazine cutouts (lots of ‘N Sync), murals of fairies, flying mice, frogs playing fiddles and other whimsical things on another wall. My parents let me paint anything I wanted to on one wall. I remembered my big white shelf over in the corner with all my knickknacks that were so important to me then, such as my yellow duck collection, trophies from recreational soccer and stuffed animals I just had to buy at yard sales. When I looked at the window near my bed, it reminded me of when my younger brother and I would pass notes pinned to a string, up and down the side of the house from his window above, down to mine. He always wanted to play for way longer than I did.
The visions slowly started to disappear as I heard my boyfriend, Toby, call my name from the other room. It was time to leave this house I had grown up in and lived in for 22 years. My parents had put the house up for sale and this would be my final walk through. But I wasn’t ready to go quite yet. First I had to open my closet door. Just as I suspected, the purple hippo stickers were still there. I smiled remembering my “secret spot.”
I used to put a lot of things in my closet, but never clothes, shoes or jackets. It was the perfect place for a fort, why clutter it? As a child I took out everything my mom had stowed in there and shoved it under my bed. Then I moved in a lamp, some blankets, pillows and books. Obviously, I had to decorate the inside, so I stuck on the wall some pages from a magazine (‘N Sync) and the purple hippo stickers. Most likely there was a dream-catcher somewhere in there, too.
I would spend hours inside my closet, reading and writing in my highly confidential journal. I loved how my mom had to call my name twice when she didn’t see me in my room. It never took her long to find me, though. I can only imagine what I looked like through her eyes and what went through her head when she saw a light shining through the bottom of my closet door.
I closed my closet door, my bedroom door and then walked outside. Toby was waiting in the car, and I tried unsuccessfully to walk toward him and not turn back. But I wasn’t ready to go, not yet. I made my way down the grassy hill to the backyard.
On rainy days my brother and I used to make potions in my dad’s wheelbarrow for the creepy neighbor who lived next door (we were convinced she was a witch). The potion consisted of lots of pine needles, moss, mud, dandelion heads, all the potent stuff. In the winter, the grassy hill seemed liked Mount Everest and the entire neighborhood would come over to go sledding. When my family and I moved to the house back in 1991 when I was three, my dad filled in the swimming pool with concrete and created a basketball court. The days and nights spent with my brother riding bikes, rollerblading, shooting hoops and playing with chalk were endless.
I made my way off the old court and knelt down by a small pine tree I had planted from a seedling in the fourth grade. I dug a little hole in the dirt with a stick and planted a thank-you letter I wrote to my house. Before I covered my formal goodbye with dirt, I glanced around the entire yard and enjoyed a slide show of seasonal memories and thought about how my house had been a witness to my life. It had watched me make my way through high school and change through adolescence. It watched me fall in love for the first time, and break up for the first time, too. It watched me get ready for the prom and my mom do my makeup with her fancy products. It had seen me pack a bag and run away (to the top of the street) and it had also watched me pack a bag and run away to college. It heard me cry, my brother and I fight, my parents fight, whispers to a teenage boy (out the window at midnight) and laughter at its loudest.
I walked back up the hill and saw Toby’s smiling face through the windshield. I got into the car and we pulled out of the driveway and headed up through the neighborhood one last time. This time I didn’t look back.