It seemed an odd choice.
The house that our family called home is on the market and will soon be sold.
Last weekend, I started the journey of emptying out each room.
And I chose to start.
With the guest bath.
Which, as I said, seemed an odd choice. I mean there are four bedrooms (not to mention a master bath), plus a kitchen, den, and, please help me gods and goddesses, a two car gararge that holds everything from my dead stepfather’s fishing poles to four-hundred and fifty partially empty bags of garden soil to every vase that held every flower arrangement I’ve sent mom since she moved in.
The guest bath seemed like the last place to start. But, one thing I’ve learned in my life is that, sometimes, you just go along with those hunches, nudges and senses of what is right.
So it was that, last Saturday, I emptied all the cabinets and drawers of the guest bath.
As I did, I remembered.
And I knew.
That that hunch, nudge and sense to start here.
You see, in 1983, when my mom and stepfather moved into this house, I moved with them. Once the movers were gone and my stepfather busied himself with setting up the garage, while mom busied herself with setting up everything else, the very first thing I did was put my things in what was called my bathroom before it became the guest bathroom.
Now, this was a very big deal to me.
Forty years ago.
I spent the first sixteen years of my life in a home that had one full bath.
That was shared by two adults and two kids. I’m the baby in the family, so you can guess where I fell on the pecking order of who got to use the bath when.
So, having my own bathroom that was available to me whenever I wanted it was huge.
But there was something else about this bathroom.
It had really deep drawers and cabinets. The kind that you have to really stretch your arms and fingers into to reach the back.
Why was that a big deal?
Because, in 1983, when I was a pimply, closeted gay shaman, I neeeded somewhere to hide my secrets.
And so I put them way back in the far corners of those drawers and cabinets.
Once I moved out of the family’s house in 1984, I can’t tell you how many times I returned to this bathroom.
To check my hair and outfit before going out clubbing. To make sure my shirt was impeccibly pressed before family pictures when my Gran and I were both home for the holidays. To calm my nerves while my now ex-husband met everyone for the first time. To ask for strength before escorting Mom to her husband’s funeral.
To look in the mirror the night of October 14, 2018, which was the day I moved Mom into assisted living and returned to live in this house.
And realize: My god. I’m the last one here.
But I wasn’t.
My secrets and my shame were still there.
Tucked away in the dark corners of years past.
Which is why, four years ago, I was called back to this house that has never been a home.
To claim what I had left behind.
To learn what, way back then, I was too young, too confused, too scared, too conditioned to learn.
That sometimes, what you call secrets are actually truths.
What you feel as shame.
And, which is why, this past weekend, I started the journey of saying good-bye to the family home in what had once been my bathroom.
So that I could say, “Thank you.”
The Practice of Being Alive is a collection of stories about getting through this thing called life.
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