The Door I Once Held The Key To
Going home always stirs up deep emotions for me, emotions I can only process while writing them out. A recent trip home was no different. Here are three little vignettes I wrote this weekend.
I Never Lived in an Apartment
I never lived in an apartment. I have lived in places with mountain views, lake views, and desert views. I have lived on a few rivers. I have lived on the rim of the Grand Canyon and at the base of the Grand Teton. I have lived in all sorts of structures -employee dorms, cabins, rotting trailers, historic buildings, duplexes, townhouses, basements, houses of many shapes and sizes, and sometimes even my car - but I have never lived in an apartment.
Growing up I would drive by apartments and think, one day it will be me. Someday I will live in an apartment. I will be roommates with my best friends and we will get to hang out every single night together. We won’t have to plan around our busy schedules to see each other. We won’t have to ask our parents for rides or permission. We can have sleepovers on school nights. We will talk late into the night and not worry about waking anyone up with our giggles. We will live together. We will get to share our whole lives together. But it never happened. I never lived in an apartment.
I learned about my parents first year of marriage and the small apartment they shared. It sounded cozy and delightful. I always dreamed of my own first year of marriage. Of taking on life together and learning and growing together as a couple in that small space. Of choosing out the furnishings of our small apartment together. But the fully furnished large townhome we lived in during our first year of marriage was far from the apartment I envisioned. The views were better, looking out our bedroom window at the magnificent towering red rocks of Zion National Park -but it was not the tiny apartment somewhere in California I envisioned my entire life. I never lived in that apartment.
I always wondered which apartments I would live in. Would it be the ones behind the grocery store near my favorite Mexican restaurant? The ones with old vines draping over the walls. Would it be the new apartments with their stunning kitchens and sparkling appliances? The ones with many hot tubs to try out on cooler nights. Would it be the Canyon Crest apartments, with their convenient location to school and walking distance to a movie theater, cute restaurants, and shops? I imagined Friday nights with my husband, walking from our cute apartment to a restaurant and then seeing a movie before picking up a bottle of wine and walking home. A life that never was. I never lived in an apartment.
I never pictured living in a house or a neighborhood or on land or living in a beautiful place. Those always seemed like something so far in the future, something to dream of when I was older. An apartment was next, I would move out of my parent’s home or out of on-campus housing and into an apartment. Once I lived in an apartment I would figure out what came after that. But I never lived in an apartment. What was supposed to be next came first.
I never dared to dream of the life I currently live. It seemed too out there, too impossible. A beautiful home on a river with stunning mountain views, expecting my first child with a husband I loved more than I could ever imagine, and looking at building an even more beautiful house. I never let myself dream this big.
But I did dream about living in an apartment, and sometimes I wonder what if? I feel like I skipped past a formative step I had always imagined taking and into a life more beautiful than my wildest dreams. But what did I miss out on? I will never know because I never lived in an apartment.
A Little Wild and A Little Untamed
The places that feel the most like home to me are always just a little bit wild and untamed. Not totally untamed like the mountains and forests I wander. Those feel like home too, but not THE MOST at home. There is a little bit of danger there that keeps me on guard and doesn’t let me relax the way I would at home.
But a little wild and a little untamed. Where thought and care was given in it’s creation but things are mostly left on their own to do what they want to do. To grow the way they want to grow. To be the way they want to be. Perfection is and will never be a thought. The enemy of perfection in fact.
But we drove by my childhood home tonight and it was clean, manicured. A clean lawn with two hedges on either side of the front window, trimmed into spirals that stretched towards the sky. The front doors were completely visible from the road with a perfect wreath on each one.
It was very much unlike the Bougainvillea vine my mom had grown, its pink flowers wrapping all the way up to the balcony and arching over the front path. The little arches of pink flowers that provided shade, shelter and relief from that hot California sun. The ones that hid the front door and provided us with privacy. The arches we posed under for photos at prom and graduation. The vine that grew whichever way it wanted, just a little wild and untamed.
The Climbing Jasmine that had once covered the outer walls of the home had been removed. The Jasmine that had lent it’s sweet scent to so many of my memories. The scent that greeted me every time I came home. Coming from late night practices and competitions, from award ceremonies and banquets and youth groups and time with friends -it always smelled the same. The same smell that filled my nose during every good night kiss. That smell that still stops me in my tracks every time I notice it.
Gone were my mothers rose bushes so carefully tended to. The ones we would pick a rose from on a special occasion and present to my mom. Children presenting their mom with her own roses on Mother’s day.
Gone was the little path to a spot hidden by rose bushes to the bird bath, which many birds -and our cats enjoyed a little too much.
Gone were the trees, the ones that did change color in the fall -albeit late by most states’s standards. The ones I would gather leaves from beneath to decorate the table at Thanksgiving. The trees we too often tried and failed to build our own tree house in, leaving behind boards haphazardly nailed in like a ladder.
They were all gone. In their place a perfect lawn and perfect hedges and perfect wreaths. The little wildness that had existed in our little front yard gone. I wonder if the people there had their own memories in their new yard. I wonder if they created their own magical moments as they trimmed their hedges and tamed what had previously been a mostly untamed and wonderful yard. I wonder if they found as much joy in manicured things as I found in wild things.
The places that feel the most like home are just a little wild and untamed.
Like the shoulder of my husband that I sleep on each night. His wild beard and chest hair tickling my forehead and chin. Our child growing inside me that I hope grows up to be just a little wild and untamed like it’s parents. This is home. This is home.
The perfect house, perfect hedges and perfect wreaths are no longer home.
The Door I Once Held The Key To.
I looked at the gate I once held the key to. The gate that led to the park with the lawn that we would have picnics on. The park with the bench that I would sit on and watch the lights dance on the water of the lake from. The bench and lawn were gone. In its place a beautiful garden of drought tolerant plants. A smart choice I noted, an improvement for sure. But it wasn’t the way I remembered it. And I wanted to walk through that gate into that garden and smell those beautiful plants and make new memories amongst them. But I no longer had the key.
I stood at the door I once held the key to. My hand balled up into a fist but yet not daring to knock. I had no place to knock and no right to interrupt the lives of the strangers that lived there and yet, I wanted to so badly.
There was no point in knocking. Inside would not look like the home I once knew. If anything it would bring up more sad emotions to see it all changed and I knew the rush of memories would be enough to overwhelm me.
But oh, I so badly wanted to knock. Even more so, I wanted to walk right in like I used to. I wanted my family to be there, I wanted the old smells to be there, I wanted my cats to be there. I wanted our Christmas tree to be up, the lights all on, tinsel on the stairs, and Amy Grant's “Home for Christmas” to be echoing through the walls. I wanted it all. Just for a moment I wanted things to be as they were. But I couldn’t have it. Those moments were gone long ago.
I wanted to ask the house I once held the key to “Do you remember me? Do you remember the moments we spent together? Do you remember watching me growing up? Did you ever care?” but that’s silly. I know the house doesn’t remember me and I know it never cared.
I passed by the fence to the side yard that led to the backyard. The one I didn’t need a key to -now or then. It was late at night. Briefly an exhilarating thought went through my head- what if I just opened it. What if I just went in like I used to. Surely no one would notice. You can’t see the side yard from anywhere in the house. I learned this long ago and utilized it to sneak out of the house many a time in my youth. Late night In N Out runs and trips to toilet paper the homes of cute boys -the side yard was always my route.
So surely, no one would notice if I opened the gate and snuck into the backyard. Just for a peek. Just to remember. I would be in and out in less than ten seconds. But this was not my home anymore. It was not my right. It was trespassing where I didn’t belong. So I didn’t open the gate, just like I didn't knock. Better to leave things undisturbed.
I just looked at the home I once held the key to with longing and wished I still did.
But then I remember the door I now hold the key to, and am grateful I traded keys when I did. I now have key to the home that makes never want any other key.
But I still know how it feels to stand at the door you once held the key to, so my door will always open to anyone who knocks.