Opening a Memory Box in My Brain.

Yesterday I visited the house I grew up in for the first time in a decade. Ten years ago, my parents moved to California for work adventures and rented out the 40-some acre hobby farm. Now, they’re getting it ready to sell and I had a chance to poke around rooms I lived in from nine to nineteen. None of these memories are related – they all struck in random pictures from the dusty trunks in the attic of my head.

And as I drove down the back-roads in the country from my grandma’s house to my old place, memories bounced around behind my eyeballs – some sort of washing over in a quick flash, some giving a hard Junebug-on-the-windshield smack to my brain.

The house my best friend lived in on Martin road, where I spent long Friday nights with her plotting futures. We went to prom with our boyfriends as a double date – that was the time I lost the $100 bill down the front of my dress (people, this is the shit that happens when I foolishly attempt to be sexy or flirtatious, seriously) and royally pissed off my boyfriend. Rightly so, really. She and I are friends on Facebook now, and it seems like life went a lot like the intended plan for her, which is awesome. My path has twisted and turned so often I can’t even remember what I wanted during those long conversations. Funny how that works.

I passed that spot on the two lane road in the country where my little Mazda 323 hit a patch of slush on my way to work in the mall. I was seventeen. I think I spun a total of three and a half times that day, somehow managed to stay in the center of the road instead of flying off into the ditch, and ended up facing the right way in the wrong lane. I remember the exhilaration and fear, and giggling as I moved over into my own lane and went off to work. Pretty sure I never told my parents THAT one.

My high school boyfriend’s house, still standing back in the trees behind the wooden privacy fence, although the bar across the road is gone and a new stop sign has been added on the corner. His parents were always home when I spent time there.

His parents had very different rules for their son than mine had for their daughter, and some kisses will never be told.

I had a 10:30 curfew in high school. I’d leave his house frantically at 10:20 for the fifteen minute drive home and speed the whole way, usually getting there a minute or two late.

I can still be made late by a romantic relationship. I’m still not sorry.

The road I lived on clearly hasn’t been resurfaced since long before I moved away. The houses along the way are the same. The eagles still hang out in the treeline fifty yards back from the road, watching for anything hit by the speeders going over fifty-five. The one on the road as I passed gave me a distinct LOOK before lazily spreading an impressively terrifying wingspan and flying out of the way of my truck. I’m glad I wasn’t on a bike.

The fence is down. The front pastures where first Kalli, then later Shadow, met me at the corner when the bus dropped me off after school are mostly gone. Only the line of mowed lawn versus thigh-high grasses marks the place the fence once kept our horses contained. The river, once easily visible where it splits one of the pastures, is lined by tall bushes and overgrowth without the herd keeping the space cleaned out. I used to drop my bookbag, duck under the fence, and jump on for a quick ride before going in the house, or go stick my feet in the cold water where it ran fast enough over the rocks to discourage leeches, and hang out with the herd for a while. Some days I’d just race Shadow from the end of the driveway to the gate. I always lost, but he’s do an extra lap just for fun, and I could watch him run in joy forever. My big grey gelding who hated to walk when dancing or galloping was so much more fun. I wonder if he was happy with the three little girls who took over his care when I moved to the city and sold him to another family. I hope they spoiled him rotten while he lived.

The big wooden fence along the road is down, too. Even the area in the other pasture, where I watched a moose step over the five foot fence like it was a minor bump in the road.

The back was no different – fencing all down, burrs growing where no herds keep the overgrowth under control.

The arena where Shadow and I practiced dressage, the bit of barbed wire where I got the scar on my thigh when I was eleven, the gates I could open from horseback…they’re all down, hidden in the tall grass as traps for the unwary.

I didn’t even bother with the barn. Judging by the state of the garage and house, I think seeing the place I spent the most time outside of my own room in the same condition would just make me sad.

The house is…well, let’s say a decade of renters has not been kind to the house, who now looks more like a decrepit, sad, toothless creature too far gone to help. I remember working with Dad to put the addition on the back, the room where we celebrated Christmas for years before they moved. I remember the spring I graduated from high school was when we renovated the bedrooms, the bathrooms, and the kitchen. I lived for a couple of months in a old camper in the driveway while my room was under construction. I used to bitch that I’d only get a fancy new room with NEW CARPET for a little while (turned out to be a year before I moved out), and that my parents installed a dishwasher right as I’d be leaving so my sisters wouldn’t have to hand-wash on their chore night. Oh the unfairness of it all!

The carpet in my old room is the same deep blue, underneath all the stains. I used to sleep under the once-new window and have nightmares that Freddy Kruger could get into my room through that first floor slider. I probably shouldn’t have watched late night tv back when Friday the 13th was an actual show…good imagination.

I don’t remember my bedroom being quite so small, but then I was smaller when I lived in it, so I suppose time and distance play tricks on spatial relations.

I miss being able to smell horses and river when I slept with the window open. I miss going out in the cold dark winter nights to look for northern lights above the hill. I miss how quiet it is, living where there is no major freeway or busy city street or airport flight patterns all within earshot.

Part of me is sickly happy the house and buildings are in their current condition – I think it might be harder to imagine selling the place to a new family if it looked as it did when my parents moved out. And maybe someday I’ll be lucky enough to again live where I don’t share walls or yard-visibility with my neighbors, where I don’t have to leash my dog and I can have horses in a pasture. We’ll see.

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