Tunneling deeper and deeper into the abyss of the couch cushions to hide amongst the loose change, along with the forsaken dirty socks and bits of stale food shoved into the cracks by my brothers, I cried out “Why?” Only to be answered with an insulting, “I thought you were old enough to handle this.” I tried to get even further from the light and from the voices but most of all from the idea of moving.
How could I leave the place I had lived for seven years, my friends of seven years, and the city—Midland—in which my father’s parents lived? What did being old enough have to do with leaving a place you knew?
After hiding in the abyss of the couch, I migrated to a large red winged chair that was the right size for me to curl up in the fetal position with my golden retriever, Maggie. Eyes still red and cheeks moist, I ask what about Maggie and the cats, and informed my parents that I would not leave them. Of course the animals were to come with us, and somehow the sadness of moving changed to excitement.
I was to be a part of the decision making process, and on weekends would travel north to the greater Grand Traverse Area to house hunt. I only remember a few of the houses we looked at, one Victorian in Thompsonville that looked straight out of a Tim Burton movie with a haunted looking spiral stair case, one small blue house in Empire, where my curiosity of the attic caused my brothers along with myself to be covered in dust and Pink Panther insulation.
Finally, alone with my parents, we looked at the sand colored house on Front Street in Empire. It seemed that Laura, the realtor, was selling the house to me and not to my parents. The house had many rooms: two bathrooms, and to my joy a room with purple butterflies and flowered wallpaper, pea green ceilings, and to complete the effect, grass green, dirt brown shag carpet. Laura strategically took me to the side of the house to show me the “Dorothy Doors”, that were one of the two entrances to the basement—the other being a dungeon type trap door. Laura explained to me how it was just like the Wizard of Oz, and showed me how to open the doors and exclaim, “AUNTY EM, AUNTY EM!” I was sold.
We moved into the house in December. A majority of the rooms had dark wood paneling and the floors were all carpeted with shag carpet. There were a total of thirteen different shag carpets in an array of colors and lengths. With a matching blue toilet and bathtub, the bathroom had lovely brown shag covering the floors as well as half way up the walls. A beautiful blue fountain mural shown, behind the sliding glass doors of the bathtub/shower. Brightly colored chandeliers were scattered throughout the house glowing in vibrant oranges and purples. It seemed as though the house was a time capsule of the 70’s.
As the house changed, it seemed my life followed suit. As my dad pulled out the shag carpet in the downstairs, I became friends with Nick Deering during show and tell time, and as the wood panels came down, I gained the comrade James Czapek, both who would prove to be great allies on the bus as well as in life. When the fountain mural left the bathroom, I met Jenna Barr in gym class. Being paired together in the physical challenge of the day, we found the commonality that we both despised the activity. Our alliance formed soon after. Light fixtures illuminated Gino’s grand entrance to Empire in third grade. When the purple butterfly room began to change, Lindsay Smith came into my life. The two of us seldom cease laughing. With the loss of a closet, I attained Sean and Dane, and like my house, the crew watched the band they formed with Gino and James change from Fortissimo—a Weezer, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin cover band—to The Stygian Shore—a purely original metal group.
Another change of carpets resulted in the characters Alex, Will and Troy who came with fun and laughter. The redone ceilings brought Morgan to the gang along with her loyalty and all the movies we’ve created since. The third paint color in the kitchen went up and Aubrie with her art and skills joined the ranks. Just as new green carpet was installed in the living room, Ben Monstrey stepped on the scene, to entertain us all with stories of elaborated truths. Thus as the house morphed, the Empire Crew was formed.
The change of house not only correlated with people coming into my life but also with their exit. Soon after the addition of a wood stove, my grandpa Jack left this world. With a new sink in the bathroom, Uncle Danny was washed out of my life. When the Norway Maple decided it had had enough, and dropped its upper canopy on the house, along with the siding, friendships fell apart. One betrayed me, and her twin breached trust as well, so on the new bamboo floor, the footsteps of a pair could be heard with the ending of friendship. As walls were torn down, the distance and frustration around the betrayal grew too much for a few to handle, they made new alliances, and walked away.
My Dad put in a new front door for a new friend, Hali to walk through, while Gino walked out the back. While the foundation was supported, so was a strong bond with a handful. New gravel in the driveway was placed as a few drove out of view on their way to a new life. The new trim along the windows allows a view of past friends who keep in touch. Along with issues of the septic tank, pain and memories of those who left on bad terms bubble up through the drain.
I may be able to predict the changes to the house but the changes in my life are harder to foresee. Like the branch of the tree falling on the house, sometimes I am blindsided. Some people like Gino may walk back through the door while others will walk out forever. Even as the house changes however, the feeling it creates remains the same. The renovations of the house and my life reinforce the ideas that some things such as feelings and true friendships can endure while other things like blue toilets, shag carpets, and mediocre relationships all have their end
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