It’s infinitely odd to move back into your childhood home as an adult.
You know this house inside and out - where each dish fits within the cupboard, the odd way you have to jiggle the handle of the bathroom door, exactly which stairs will creak as you try to sneak out after curfew. A thousand physical manifestations of the girl you once were. The comforting realization that at least here you know who you are. The terrifying realization that this place will give you no indication of who you could be.
Yes, these walls have seen you transform before - from the caterpillar crawling of your elementary-school days to the butterfly-wing stretch of high school graduation. But you have the sneaking suspicion that each chrysalis holds just one use. Now that this one has cracked open, you cannot crawl back inside. You cannot expect to emerge once again, another species of butterfly, wings larger and more beautifully painted than before. Becoming a butterfly was supposed to be the end of the story of the girl who lived in this house, not a midway pit stop in the larger journey of the woman who traveled away and back again.
You wander the rooms and the hallways, counting steps and ducking through doorways that seem somehow smaller. As you dust knick knacks, you note the cracks that you never saw before. Either ithey had not yet broken, or you had not been looking.
You fight twin desires: Enshrine this house, found a museum to a personal history, mount plaques proclaiming that B once slept here. And: Burn it to the ground, roast marshmallows over the dying embers. Watch the fire die down until you can sift through the ashes for the door hinges that survive to take with you as you move to someplace new. To compromise, you redecorate. You move into the bedroom that once belonged to your mother, feeling like a fraud as the days of playing dress up in her closet glimmer in the back of your mind. You clean off countertops and pack small items into boxes that you throw into your brother’s old room, a secret revenge for the fact that he is not here to help you sort the meaningful from the mundane. Unwilling to throw anything out for fear you might need it later, you shift furniture around as if moving them to a new location gives you ownership over the pieces that your parents once used to make a life. You tear down the curtains your mother always had on the window so that more light will come in, gleefully ripping the fabric into small squares so that it will again be “useful” as rags.
And though you may not yet know what to do with your days here, you have to admit: it’s lovely to wake to the sun streaming in on your face.