House of shattered dreams

I went to my parents’ cottage recently. They were out of town and left me a key. I wasn’t quite sure if they were going to say yes when I asked if I could go. I wasn’t sure if they would trust me… but they did.

Opening the door, it was like I had stepped back in time. Everything was the same, but I was different. The furniture, the books, the dishes, and even the magazines in the bathroom drawers, were all just where I had left them. It was as if nothing had changed in 6 years… but so much has.

Back in the day, I was a really good aunt at the cottage. It’s where I learned how to be a mom. I took care of my nephews, fed and bathed them, did special things with them and hugged them at night when they/I felt scared. I spent a lot of time as a young aunt learning and practising to be a mom. I envisioned parenting my kids in that same cottage, washing my kids’ hair in the same lake all summer and taking them on the same quiet boat rides early in the morning when the lake is calm…but I never did that. My kids didn’t know that my parents’ have a cottage until this summer.

I used to watch my husband (boyfriend) playing with my nephews at the cottage and daydream about the amazing father he would be.  When we got there last week, I looked out the window to see my husband and son playing catch in the yard. It looked just like my daydream…

Being at the cottage felt nice – but it was also terribly sad. My parents’ cottage is huge. They built a big bedroom for each of their 4 children and extra space for all of the grandchildren that they were expecting.

It’s like walking through a house of broken dreams. Every bedroom and extra washroom and baby gate and bunk bed shows the thought that they put into building a home for their entire family. But now it’s empty. Like, dustballs rolling around empty.

There are photos all around, photos of the entire family having dinner outside on the lawn, photos of my parents with (some of) their grandchildren, playing in the lake, eating popsicles, doing cottage things.  It’s like that was a different life with different people.

Being there makes me yearn for those times, it makes me want to blow that horn from Narnia that makes everyone gather. But then… there’s a reason we scattered. Even though it’s sometimes hard for me to remember.

nostalgia_is_a_seductive_liar_by_ashleydoesstuff

If a tree falls…

If I eat a meal and no one sees, does it really count?

I’m noticing that I have a lot of trouble when I’m alone lately. (not alone in a room, alone in a house.) I struggle to eat, sleep or do things that feel good. It’s like I go into hibernation mode where I don’t have the same basic needs.

It’s like who I am when people are around goes on hold. I go into suspended animation.

This is possibly related to that little girl alone that I mentioned but I’m still not sure that I’m ready to go there…

But I have to dig this up so that I can move on. It’s like a big rotting root stuck in the ground where I’m trying to grow new grass.

Once upon a time, there was an 11 year old girl. Her mom had to go to work in the city during the summer so she stayed home alone at the cottage all day. 3 days a week for 3 weeks.

She ran wild in the neighborhood, playing with friends all day, watching too much TV and eating the dessert her mom left her before eating the lunch that was in the fridge.

It was a glorious time… But, that’s not my story. In my story, the girl didn’t play with any friends (she was scared to go outside), she didn’t watch any tv (there wasn’t one), and there was no lunch in the fridge for her.

She just wandered around the empty living room. She listened to a Sarah Mclachlan cd (Solace). She tweezed hair off her legs. She looked out the window and thought about sitting outside by the lake.  She ate an Oreo and then brushed her teeth. She tried to read a book. She alphabetized the bookshelf. Sometimes she made herself ‘Kraft dinner’ and ate the whole box. Sometimes she’d leave a frozen bagel on the window sill to defrost in the sun and then eat it with cheeze whiz. She played card games like ‘war’ and ‘go fish’ against herself. Sometimes she had a good cry.

At night, her mom would come home and the girl would jump up like a puppy excited to see her. They would swim and play card games with each other and eat a warm dinner. It was wonderful.

But one night her mom had a late meeting in the city so mom planned to spend the night in the city. The girl’s teenage sister was told to be home from her work by 10pm so that the (11 year old) girl wouldn’t be alone all night.  That night, dinner was actually arranged for the girl. She was to go to grandma’s for dinner. And then grandma would take her home to be alone and hope sister returned.

It was 11pm, sister wasn’t home yet. The girl couldn’t sleep. She was scared. Alone. She couldn’t relax to let sleep come. So she dragged her blanket to the couch and sat there trying to be brave. Trying to stay awake. Stay on guard.

Then, a noise. The screen door opened and someone was fidgeting with the door knob. Terrified, the girl tiptoes to the door and stretches up to peak through the peep hole. Relieved to see grandma’s nightgown, she opens the door.  Grandma says she was worried about her on her own (finally) and decided to sleepover. The girl feels loved (?) and safe and goes to sleep.

A bit later, sister comes home and the girl wakes up. Sister was 17 and had been out with her friends. She is angry that Grandma is there and mad at the girl for getting her into trouble for being late.

They’d both been set up to fail that night.

22 years later, I’ve been through so much. I’ve purged so much of that garbage… Why do I still find myself keeping a late night vigil until an adult comes home and gives me peace to stop fighting sleep?

That summer wasn’t the only time I was home alone for too long. It happened that way for a few summers (with a new CD each year). And then, once I was 16 and my parents bought a year-round cottage, they would go up alone on weekends and I was home alone in the winters, in a big house with an empty fridge. I had a tv this time- but it was much more than 8 hours alone.

Those endless days and nights alone… like an unwilling hermit… those days were quiet. I learned to turn off and wait for someone to come home and reanimate me. I try not to think about that time as real. I’ll write about that another time.

At least I had a boyfriend so that I didn’t have to sleep alone on Saturday nights. #thankgodforbirthcontrol

I’m done writing about this for now.

The purpose of this digging of shit I don’t want to look at was to try to figure out why I seem to have so much trouble doing things that are healthy (eating, sleeping) when I’m alone?

It begs the question, “If I eat a meal and no one sees, does it really count?” and maybe the deeper question, “If I sleep and no one is there, do I disappear?

girl in window dali

addendum:
I realize that sometimes parents have to work and there are no childcare options and they do what they have to do. This was not the case. Here are several other options that could have been arranged instead of me staying alone at the cottage all day:
1. My grandparents’ cottage was three blocks away. They were there all day.
2. My sister was riding her bike to work at a day camp nearby. I could have joined her there.
3. We had several friends who were around during the day. I could have gone there.
4. I could have driven into the city with her and been dropped at any of my friends’ houses for the day.
5. My aunt was around either in the city or at my grandparents’ cottage with her baby. If she’d known I was alone, I probably could have been with her.
Maybe I’m grappling for other options here but I suppose 1 or 2 should have been sufficient.

*Questions: Have you had a similar experience? Was this common? Am I just being overly sensitive? Tell me.