Cleanse

There are so many other things I am supposed to be doing right now, but my writing bone has been so neglected as of late that it might atrophy if I don’t do something – and quick.

We moved into a new neighborhood; it’s so quaint that it’s almost too quaint. It’s practically its own town, with an in-the-hood barber, grocery store, gas station, doctor, fire station, etc. Gag me, you might say. I did too upon the first time I entered it a few years back. I was visiting my friend who still lives here. And as adorable as the whole thing was, I couldn’t help but think, ‘Are you joking me? What is this, Pleasantville?” And to confirm my own first impression, a friend who visited us yesterday mentioned the term “Stepford wives.”

Yes, I live in such a place. And I feel like an invader, but not for that reason. In fact, I feel strangely, almost irresistibly at home here. It’s true. This place, that once turned my stomach (just a little), now feels like home.

Nonetheless, I am in that stage where I feel like I have landed on a new planet, like I have invaded my neighbors’ territory, wondering when my mother ship might beam me up again. The invader stage. Like the first time you show up at your boyfriend’s parents’ house, only different, only perhaps entirely different. But you know that feeling of otherness I am talking about. Of folks staring and wondering how long you’ll stick around.

Other than the feeling of being other, I am thrilled beyond measure to be in an actual house on a street that looks a little like something that might have been built just outside an enchanted forest. This house chose us somehow, or we summoned it. I am not sure which. It just fits, and it’s not even “perfect.” It’s just our home. I knew it the first time I walked in.

Then there’s the leaving of the old home. I didn’t think I had one genuinely sad bone in my body about leaving the townhouse, but yesterday, we went back to do the heavy-duty cleaning. And as I was scrubbing the tub for at least the third or fourth time (not joking here), I had that feeling of water rising from the deep. Not a major flood, but a minor flash flood warning. There were sudden indications that the river was rising inside.

I had tapped into sorrow that I would never again scrub that tub or take a ridiculously long bubble bath in it, or drop my iPhone in those bath waters, ever again. (OK, in all honesty, I didn’t think about the iPhone in the moment, but hey.)

So, now that the comic relief part is over. During the endless scrubbing and bleaching, I couldn’t help but see my grandmother’s face as she was dying, and remember a writer friend’s description of her own grandmother’s death. My friend described the ritual of bathing and cleansing someone on death’s door. And even though I never participated in cleaning my own grandmother during her final days, I got what my friend meant. I saw enough of my grandmother on her deathbed years ago to understand the ritual. I know what’s it’s like to sit vigil and just wait. To watch loved ones moisten lips, brush teeth, and shift her body into new positions when she couldn’t move herself.

Anyway, I was struck with the similarities to the ritual of leaving a house. The act of cleaning as a cleansing, a cleansing of the old. As an act of nostalgia and gratitude. As an act of bringing closure to the many laughs and tears shared under that roof. As a way to make peace with leaving and scrub clean what can’t be relived or revived.

Go in peace, little dear house. Go in peace.

 

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It took me a long while to consider the title for this blog. I wanted something that defined me both as a person and a writer. A name that would also perhaps speak to a particular audience. Why “The Astronaut Wife?” Since my early days of blogging, I have leaned toward more of a confessional style of writing, to some degree. I write as much truth as I can muster at each phase of life. In addition, I also come from a conservative Southern family, and I have grown very far from those roots. You could say I have rocketed to the moon in terms of my upbringing. I have rocketed away from debilitating family dynamics, from worldviews that held me beneath a rock. In my thirties, and now my early to mid-forties, I have learned to live more comfortably with both sides of the moon and write just as much about the raw, dark places as the light ones. Don’t quote me on that, though. It’s quite likely I will lean more heavily toward one or the other depending on which way the wind is blowing. Then, we get to the wife part, and quite frankly, this is where the feminist in me bucked and brayed. Identifying myself as “wife” has felt simply stymieing, particularly since becoming a mother six and a half years ago. But if the truth is going to be told, being a wife to my particular husband has altered my entire shape and has given voice to much of the inner deep. So in fact, becoming a wife was the singular most life-changing moment for me in my journey to the moon and back. Fellow travelers, you can feel safe and comfortable here. What matters more than what you might “get” about me is what you might take for yourself.

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