In Fayetteville, one of the domestic virtues that I quickly became acquainted with was the perfectly trimmed yard. The virulent sound of humming lawn mowers and whizzing weed eaters became a painful but necessary wake up call every weekend. My husband and I inadvertently even joined in the fray, mowing our yard weekly, keeping our garden weeded, and mostly making sure the aesthetics of the house were always looking good. I really don’t mind it that much.
I’ve mostly always enjoyed a little bit of yard work, as long as I wasn’t the one assigned the ever-annoying job of picking up sticks. In Camden, this job always goes to the youngest able person living in the house. The problem was that my little sister, seeing as I am eight years her elder, never had to pick up sticks alone. She also never had to ride in the back seat alone. I was eighteen years old picking up sticks in the yard with my ten year old sister following along echoing phrases like “I’m tired” and “This is so boring” and “I wish I was playing my video games” and occasionally “This is so stupid, I hate him” in reference to my step-dad who was usually to be found riding on the lawn mower at rabbit speeds drinking a glass of sweet tea that he never had to make for himself.
Since I’ve moved away, my step dad, on the rare occasion that we talk, my birthday, his birthday and father’s day, he always seems to mention that he’s on the lookout of a new “stick picker-upper.” “I’m retired, and I’m way too educated to not charge you for the labor now,” I always reply.
This time when I came home, the yard looks different because it blends in. In Camden, people seem to move at a slower pace, and most people aren’t that concerned with what their yard looks like. Our yard was always different. It never got too tall, and I can personally guarantee that the stick pile never got too high. Even the ditches were burned yearly with a serious lack of respect for the fire. Flames as high as two of me were often to be seen, James standing off to one side looking calm and my mom flying around the kitchen like a witch on a broom cussing him and his stupidity. All these things are what I remember. Not a yard with grass that is 2 or 3 feet tall in places.
We’re getting a new house. All new walls, all new floors. I’m sure it will be beautiful. But it won’t be home. Our home is supposed to be cluttered with all of my books, my mom’s crafting supplies, my sisters technology, and my step-dad’s never-ceasing pile of dirty clothes and stack of toothpicks on the table by his chair. This isn’t even the only house that I grew up in. We lived in several houses while I was growing up. Dallas only lived in two. Both of these last houses have been a part of me growing up. Both of these last houses played witness to my goth phases, that time when my car caught on fire, the hours that I would spend in the summer heat trying to earn that starting position on the basketball team.
This new house, won’t even know my name. I won’t have a room there, mom’s craft supplies will be all organized and put away, the floor won’t creak and the ceiling fans won’t rattle in the same way that this old house does. Those new memories will be very different because in a way they won’t have me in them. I have a new life in Fayetteville, with my almost always mowed lawn, and this new home won’t have a piece of me. Some new family will move into our old house. They will paint over my purple walls, they will never know how many books were devoured in this house, on that back deck, they won’t know how many evils Dallas conquered in her video games. But, I suppose we didn’t know any of those things about the previous owner either.
We do different things to try and start over. We change our style, we lose weight, we may even gain weight, we read self-help books and visit the nearest shrink. We’re all trying to better ourselves, that’s why I moved to Fayetteville in the first place. A clean start where no one knew my name. I guess sometimes, it takes building a new house, a bigger and better house, to start fresh, but while you can change the inside and the outside of a house, you’ll have a lot harder time changing the inside of yourself.
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