I was a ‘latchkey’ kid by 10-years-old to mark the official divorce and separate directions and lives of my parents. As soon as I got off the bright yellow school bus, I took out and held tightly on to my house key that melded and mixed in with my sweaty hands that ended up leaving the imprint of the intricate key marks. When I turned the rusty key into the doorknob, I heard the dead bolt distinctly unlatch and I stepped into a house rather than a home with the quiet and steady tick-tock of the clock and the nearly meditative refrigerator hum. Background noises of television or bubble gum pop music became my best friends, but so did, surprisingly, silence when I diligently and dutifully did my homework. Silence possesses its own deafening noise that can be calming or frightening.
When the hazy flames of the sun descended into the depths of the dark starry sky night to ascend, I immediately rushed to the light switches by the door to flick on the porch light for my father. I needed to make sure that my father had some kind of light in the darkness. Maybe we all need that.
My ears perked up listening for the whirring wheels of the car that my father drove in to roll into the garage, the mechanical groan of the garage door opening, and the gentle squishy footsteps of my father walking towards the front door. Like Pavlov’s dogs with these sounds, I hurried to unlock the door and greet my father behind the veiled screen door. A house became a home. Father and daughter were about to eat dinner. The switch to the porch light was flicked off.
Five years ago, I moved out on my own. Many people surprise me with their reaction of raised eyebrows: “Aren’t you scared to live alone? I’d be so scared.” Not me. I love it. Although I grew up alone and, yes, surely, I had my lonesome moments, I never really felt that drowning lonely. With that said, I am maybe one of the few who immensely enjoys my parents’ company—especially as we all get older, the more I value them and our time together. Not a weekend has gone by that I do not see my father and stepmother. On the nights I sleep in the bedroom where my childhood lives and now hides only to seek me out in my adulthood, my sleep is better than anywhere and everywhere. I wallow in the bed with mammoth indescribable flooding feelings that I am an adult who just wants to be a kid again—all curled up in the fetal position as sweet dreams and memories dance in my head awake, asleep, and in a dazed reverie. Wafting in the back of my head when I lie in bed are the surrounding sounds of my sister and me swaying to 1980’s music and the giggles and laughter of friendship sleepovers until the crack of dawn. The walls once covered with teenage heartthrobs are now barren. The closets that exploded with purses and clothes are empty. The bedroom I grew up in is the same, yet different with adulthood and childhood intermixing and mingling in a whirlwind of movements, moments, and memories.
And, I cannot help but wonder: What are the marks and milestones of adulthood, childhood, and growing old? Is the mark of adulthood and being a ‘grown up’ when moving out from the house we grow up in, or is it returning back to the roots and childhood of what was? Is the mark of growing old remembering the memories playing loudly and vividly in one’s head?
There is nothing so touching and moving to me as returning back to the home I grew up in where the porch light is always left on for me. And, yes, always, always, now when I pull my beloved 1998 Toyota Corolla car that I endearingly call Perry into the driveway to the house that holds the home of my childhood and youth, it is my father who leaves that porch light on for me. Now, he is the one who stands and waits for me behind the veiled screen door. Now, he is the one to greet me with his famous big bear hug that fills me with warmth on the outside to my inside core.
When did the roles reverse for my father and me? How did my father and I always naturally know to leave the porch light on for each other in a rustic red brick house that I grew up in and that my father is privileged to grow old in with the company of my stepmother? Is everyone so lucky to have someone leave the porch light on for them? To have someone open the door and their arms, watch out, wait, and genuinely care for them?
A house on the exterior that was created before my entry on to this earth became a home on the interior that my family created. That beaming and bright porch light a symbol of home, family, memories made, childhood transitioning into adulthood, and life in all its moving forces and parts blinds me with a deep understanding that no matter how old we get and how we can say we have grown up that there is nothing so warming and loving as to return home to what was to see how you are now and what will become of the future. Who has turned and left the porch light on to you? Who have you turned on the porch light for?
Growing up, I turned the porch light on for my father. Growing old, my father turns on the porch light for me. I hope there is someone to turn on the porch light for you. I hope even more that you turn on the porch light for someone else.
Happy and Healthy 2016 to what was, what is, and what will be!
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,