NaNoWriMo Day 9 Word Count: 15,712
The prompt from NaBloPoMo today is about the time you realized your home was different from other people’s homes.
I think I might have come to this realization rather late. Until I was in ninth grade, we lived in military housing. Our houses were essentially identical to everyone else’s except for the current resident’s decorating preferences. Donna who lived next door in San Diego, her favorite color was red. Her house reflected this year-round, but at Christmas time, it was very apparent. Her tree was covered in nothing but red lights, red garland, red tinsel, red glass balls, and a red star on top. My friend Lisa’s mom made those plastic canvas yarn art things and displayed them in every room. I remember one on a table in the living room that looked like a series of geometric shapes but when you looked at it the right way, it said, “Jesus.” An early version of a Magic Eye poster. My friend Precious’s mom was from China, and because I was only there during birthdays and other celebrations, I got the idea that there was always a bowl of red hardboiled eggs on her table.
These were differences, but they all seemed rather minor. They were, after all, things that we could have at our house (in fact, I spent years trying to get my mom to let me dye a dozen eggs red and put them in a bowl on the table).
When I was in ninth grade, we moved to northern Virginia where the military housing was limited. We rented a house in a subdivision in suburban DC. There wasn’t an enormous amount of variety between the homes (I recall four different models, 2 colonials, a cape, and a split-level ranch), but there was more variety than on base.
It was while we were living here that my mom started work at a pet shop and began to bring her work home with her. She bred mice in the basement. I’ve blogged about this before. Fancies, not feeders, although I’d bet that many of them got fed to snakes and monitor lizards anyway.
At first, I enjoyed showing people the mice in our basement. I thought they were cool, and I felt rather proud of them. I brought one of the neighbor girls with whom I waited at the bus stop to my house one afternoon. We’d just come in the kitchen door and set down our bookbags. I was getting ready to take her downstairs to show her the mice when I noticed that she was looking around at our house.
“Well, you did just move in, right?” she said, a justification in response to a query that hadn’t been spoken.
“Right,” I agreed, even though we’d been there since May and it was almost December now. She caused me to look at my house with new eyes. I saw the clutter. I saw the dirt. I saw the baby gates set up at every doorway to keep our elderly and mostly incontinent dog off the white carpeting (although if you put white carpeting in a rental, I think you’re just asking for trouble). I noticed the smell of mice wafting up the basement steps.
I was incredibly embarrassed.
I still invited friends over, but I knew enough after this to feel ashamed of my home.
As an adult, I have a fear that I might have a genetic predisposition for hoarding behaviors (my mom got rid of the mice a long time ago; now she has cats), so I try to stay on top of the clutter and not have too many pets/kids/collections/decorations. I do okay most of the time, but I still have this lingering anxiety that someone will visit my home and find that the nicest thing they can say is to offer a justification for why my house is “like that.”