I followed my memories down the rutted road one rainy, late summer day. As I parked in front of the little yellow lake house and slid from my seat, I pictured the house as it had been the last time I’d seen it, over a decade before.
I loved that house as much as I loved him, I think. When he gave me my own key, you would have thought it was the key to his heart, I was so happy. I sanded, painted, wallpapered, and picked out furniture from thrift stores. Soon the house—the interior, at least—began to take shape.
Outside, the house was still a bit rough around the edges. I envisioned restoring it to its original sunny yellow when the spring came. But the spring didn’t come, at least for the two of us. We parted ways just as the buds were forming on the trees.
He made his life with another, and for ten years I avoided this place. I didn’t want to see my little yellow house, home to someone else, with some other woman’s curtains hanging in the kitchen window I painted shut and had to pry open from the outside.
So I leaned against my wet bumper that day in hope that I could move on, at last. I’d expected to find that the house, at least, had moved on without me. But what I saw was not a cheery light in the window or flower boxes along the porch.
I found boarded-up windows and rotten boards. The house looked as forlorn and forgotten as I. It looked as if it should be knocked down, or as if soon a strong breeze would take care of doing just that and save a bulldozer the trouble. But as I stared through the bleak light I remembered my haven as it had been—remembered myself as I had been—and I realized something.
The house would never have been a palace, but it at least deserved a chance. Now my heart broke for what it had become. It could still have been what it always was; the only thing missing these last years was the care.
I believe we have to take care of things: our homes, our families, our loves—and most important, one another. Because if we don’t do it every day, week after week, year after year, no matter how much we were once loved, we eventually fall to ruin.
Kudos are not given to those among us who take care of the day to day, the mundane, the runny noses, and rotten fence posts. There are no awards for those who love well or amply provide for those who need them. There is no acclaim for those of us who just stay.
My trip to rid myself of the little yellow house didn’t go as planned, but I did learn. While she is down, she’s not out. Seldom are things broken beyond repair, even though it may seem at first as though they are. With effort, she could be a haven once again, just maybe not for me. She’s holding on, still waiting for the spring to come, and so, I guess, am I.
Julie M. Sellers is a human resources manager and, more important, mother of two wonderful children, Sophie and Max. Her first book, Immediate Family: The Adoption Option, chronicles her experiences as a single parent who adopted two children from Russia. Ms. Sellers lives in Indiana with her daughter, her son, two dogs, one guinea pig, and a turtle.
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