You Can't Go Home Again
Whoa, go back to my old house? I was terrified! Would it be devastatingly heartbreaking to see these strange new people happily living in my house? Would it bring up all kinds of repressed feelings of deep sadness and loss and homesickness and envy? (Because really, you know, I've been quite happy and content here in my tiny shack. But who knows what kinds of deep underground shit might get stirred up by returning to the scene of the tragedy?) I panicked and dithered but finally my curiosity won out over my fears and I said ok, I'll be there in five minutes.
So then suddenly there I was standing on "my" beloved front porch (which, by the way, was crowded with strange stuff I'd never seen before), ringing my own doorbell, waiting for a total stranger to open the door and let me in. It was beyond weird. But even further beyond weird was when the woman opened the door and stood there looking totally blank. "Yes?" she said, as if she wasn't expecting a visitor.
"Hi," I said cheerily. "I'm the, uh, woman you just spoke to on the phone, the one who left that sticker under your toilet seat?"
She stared at me for a moment, and then slowly comprehension began to dawn. "Oh!" she said. "Oh my goodness! You... I was expecting... You're not... I thought... I heard... I really thought you were going to be a decrepit old lady! I thought we'd bought the house from this very decrepit, very sick, very old lady." (Note to self: kill all former neighbors asap.) "I'm sorry," she said. "Come on in!"
And from the moment I stepped through the front door, everything felt like a dream. Like one of those eerie haunting dreams where you go back to a house where you used to live a long time ago but nobody there recognizes you and everything is totally different. Exactly like that.
Unfamiliar things were everywhere! The new family has four children, and they hadn't quite unpacked from the move yet so there were boxes overflowing with stuff in every room. Along with a whole lot more furniture and knickknacks and, well, just things than I had. The house was much more cluttered, but I think it was a happy, lived-in kind of chaos.
And weirdest of all, on top of all their unfamiliar stuff, they had kept almost all the things I had left behind when I moved. Mixed in with their possessions were pieces of my furniture, art, books, just all kinds of miscellaneous items I couldn't take with me. I mean, I moved from a 3,000 square foot house into a 600 square foot shack, so of course 90% of what I owned couldn't possibly come with me. I donated a lot of things to charity, threw a lot out, sold the mahogany dining table to a neighbor, but I was so overwhelmed and exhausted by the end of the move, I just walked out and left tons of stuff behind for the new owners to deal with. And it was the oddest sensation now, to walk through the rooms and see my old forgotten things mixed in with their unfamiliar things in the old familiar rooms that suddenly looked so strange and unfamiliar. I thought maybe my brain might break.
But you know what? I didn't feel sad at all. It made me extremely happy to see that the new people not only hadn't hauled my detritus off to the dump, but they were actually enjoying it! They were thinking of my rejects as exciting mysterious valuable antique treasures they'd discovered up in the attic of their very old house. The woman would be saying things like, "My mama wants to take this beautiful old piece on Antiques Roadshow!" and I'd be thinking, "Hmmm, I think I remember buying that thing at Target, or maybe it was World Market? back in 2004." I didn't want to disillusion her, but I just couldn't stop laughing.
Anyway, yeah. Going back to the old house was breathtakingly strange and surreal but it was also a happy and utterly freeing experience. I know for sure now that I really have let go and moved on. That enormous, wonderful, cluttered, extremely high-maintenance old house is somebody else's headache now, and I'm glad. Because it means I'm officially a Free Man in Paris, unfettered and alive.