The house I grew up in was green. Not green like grass or pine trees, not seafoam or hunter or Kelly. No, my house was puke green. When I got a bit older, I started referring to it as the color of bile. I felt like that sounded more sophisticated.
The whole house was falling apart. There wasn’t a single room that wasn’t in need of repairs, though some areas were worse than others. The kitchen was a disaster, with the sink falling into the cabinet that was supposed to support it and a leak in the ceiling from the bathroom directly above. The basement took in water every time it rained. On a good day it was only up to my ankles and on a bad it was up to my knees, but every time something would go floating by while we bailed and I’d wonder why I’d thought I could store anything down there in the first place.
There’s more, but I won’t bore you with the details.
From the outside one might guess at the condition of the interior but could just as easily assume it wasn’t so bad. The house needed a paint job and some updating of the doors and windows, but it wasn’t unlike many of the older homes in the neighborhood.
When we sold the house, we were cited for the illegal wheelchair ramp my grandfather had installed so we could get my mother out every now and again. The ramp was too short and steep, a hazard really, and one frosty winter morning I fell off of the side with no railing and nearly broke my elbow. When it rains I can still feel that injury nearly 20 years later. It’s just one of the ways home has stayed with me long after I left.
The town inspector also slapped the garage with a bright orange sticker, officially marking it condemned. We joked that we were surprised that the whole house wasn’t slated for demolition. It wasn’t really a funny joke, but rather the kind we would make amongst ourselves to deflect from the sting and stigma associated with living as we did for so long.
Over the years I’ve had little occasion to drive by the home I grew up in. It wasn’t on my usual route and that was just fine. The house is situated on the corner of a dead end street and on the other end of that road is a parking lot for some offices. My dentist is in that office and sometimes after an appointment I’d walk to the far side of the lot and look down at the street that was the playground of my youth. I’d look at the houses my friends grew up in, the one where the man allegedly hung himself from the exterior second floor balcony, the house that caught fire and was rebuilt, the house whose number ended in 1/2, which I always found amusing. My old house isn’t visible from the parking lot but I know it’s there.
Lately I’ve driven through my neighborhood more frequently. Life takes me down that way and I look at the house from time to time, wondering what’s going on in there. It’s a tasteful yellow now, not too bright. There is a new front door and a new garage. The retaining wall on the east end of the property is still falling down, a throwback to the old days. Whoever lives there looks like they take care of the place.
Sometimes I think about going up and ringing the doorbell, asking if I can come in and see how things have changed like you see on TV. I don’t know if it’s owner occupied or if it’s being used as a rental. It’s been thirteen years since I’ve set foot inside and it’s possible the people who live there never knew what it was like back then. Of course, it’s equally possible the owner lives there and would know my past. Thinking about that stops me from approaching the house.
There’s little to be gained from seeing who lives there now, whether they are a happy family or miserable like we were. The structure may still be weary and battle-scarred from all that went on inside its walls. A morbid curiosity leaves me wondering, but my practical self knows that house is still haunted and some things are just better left alone.