So, my children, once upon a time, before Squish and Zoomboy, mommy lost her job because Big T cried so very much, and he and Daddy, Mommy and Chicken all ended up living on a stretch of property in the middle of nowhere.

It looks very picturesque I know, but–yes. It’s cold in here. Yes, it was cold in here back then. In fact, see that propane stove in the center of the living room? Well, it used to be a wooden stove, and then suddenly it got changed out for gas. Except the outside tank didn’t have a gauge on it because it was old, and we used four times as much gas as usual, and mommy didn’t realize we needed more until she smelled the five percent reek! Yes, Chicken was a brand new tiny baby then, and Big T wasn’t even two, and Mommy had to raise hell to get that thing filled. Ah, fun times.

Oh, yes– the clothes line. Yes, children, the clothes line used to be a bone of contention, you see. Because Grandma and Great Grandma wanted Mommy to be more self sufficient. They thought Mommy should hang clothes on the clothesline instead of put them in the dryer, but the problem was, the wind swept down that big hill in the summer, and Daddy got foxtails in his underwear, and he was very sad. 🙁 So Daddy insisted that he’d work all the overtime in the world and Mommy didn’t have to use the clothesline anymore, and they were both happy!
Do we see the nowhere out there? Yes. That was the same nowhere surrounding the house when Daddy worked and went to school and was gone six days a week. No, Mommy didn’t have a car–she had to abandon the car at the gas station because it would no longer go.

Yes. It was lonely. Why do you ask?

Yeah, the cabinet is nice. No– we weren’t allowed to store stuff in it. Ever. And yes! They do have a phone that dials. It was the same phone they had twenty years ago before cell phones. That’s special too.

The carpet is new, and hey! Do you see these walls? Yes, these walls in the porch? When Chicken was born, daddy was going to take down the ugly wallpaper in this porch, and he tried to rip it off the walls. That’s when he discovered that the walls were made of six layers of ugly wallpaper and cheesecloth.

Can we say “learning to drywall”, people? I knew we could!

OH! And these empty walls–yes, they had to run more electricity in the walls to keep the place from being a fire hazard. It’s good that they are doing this, because Mommy had to plug her computer into the outside heavy equipment jack, because it was the only outlet that had three prongs!

Anyway, the walls. They used to have pictures on them!

No, honey, not pretty pictures. I used to call them the “dead relatives”. Because they were all born over a hundred years before we came to live in the house, and they were all dead.

And they just sat on the walls, judging me.

Because I was a terrible mother. Because I didn’t garden, I hated cleaning, and the fact that the house had no foundation and the floors tilted at odd angles and I kept losing baby bottles was driving me bugshit. Big T cried, and it was all my fault. Chicken had ear infections and it was all my fault. I’m still a terrible mother, but at least the dead relatives are gone– that’s a plus!

And isn’t the kitchen special?

Yes. I think so too. I especially like the way the glass looks. It didn’t used to look that way. It’s been all replaced, because it used to be pre-industrialized glass, and every time Big T ran around with a wooden hammer, he’d shatter that shit all over the fucking floor.

It’s hard to look at this place now, children. I remember what an abject failure I was. How I couldn’t hold a job, I couldn’t make my baby stop crying, I couldn’t please my mother in law (who is, in fact, a lovely person) and her mother thought I was trash who ruined her grandson’s life. (She loved me by the end, children– patience really is rewarded.)

I’m reminded of all the things I”m bad at, and all the ways I felt helpless. I’m reminded that we needed a cash advance to get the hell out of there, and even though we eventually found our feet again, I resent the hell out of my own powerlessness, and how I couldn’t live up to this old house and it’s quaint charm and all it’s challenges.

I would have made a shitty romance heroine, my children–I would have gone running back to the big city with my tail between my legs, and here I am, living in the suburbs and making a hash out of that too.

But I do have you, my darlings. You are beautiful, and not too damaged, I hope. I must not have been that horrible a mother, if you’re who your father and I raised. And your grandmother is a wonderful person–I must have been young and callow if I pissed her off enough to kick us out.

But I can’t stop the pain of that time from flooding me, children. Maybe this time, seeing it so changed (and changing more every month, as Mate’s uncle comes to fix it up) I can let the pain wash up like tide, and recede, and the bitterness will be flushed away, and the self-recrimination too.

Because really, we spent a lovely hour there, and watching your reaction to every  memory, to every “quirk” of that 150 year old death trap, was worth it, in a way. Mommy survived a rough time. You know you can too.

* * *

Winter Ball, now on sale at Amazon, ARe, and Dreamspinner Press. 

0 thoughts on “Millertown”

  1. God! Every piece of pain and wisdom you write for us was hard earned, yeah? Thank you for sharing it with all of us. It helps ease the pain of earning our own. Hugs.

  2. Unknown says:

    Good grief! You made me think of my own river of guilt about things past. It's certainly all tough to let go of. And I suppose it will be the silver lining when I get old and start to lose my mind.

    But you know…the thing I love about your anecdotes is how your love for your family shines through – strong and sure and unshakable. You are the picture of faithful and unconditional love. …and you are gifting them with your memories…and album of word pictures to look at whenever they want.

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