Susan's House

Susan's House

Near the end of my freshman year of high school, my parents sold our home and we moved into a rental house in a different neighborhood; it was very close to the home I'd lived in until I was in fifth grade (obviously, we moved a few times) and my friend Susan lived in this neighborhood, which was the only thing exciting about it. 

I'd known Susan since preschool; we attended the same church, participated in lots of summer church camp shenanigans together, and met at weekly church youth group meetings. She was always a year behind me in school, because she has an October birthday, but we are only three months apart in age. She also has a younger brother, like I do, and we regularly commiserated about how ridiculous and embarrassing they both seemed.

Something I read in a book recently brought Susan and her family to mind; I can still hear her laugh and see her bright smile. She's always been very outgoing, which I enjoy since I tend to avoid interaction, and she's always had many friends. As a young teenager, I continuously searched for opportunities to be away from home, away from my father, and Susan's house was so close.

My father has never been an easy person for me to be around; he is extremely opinionated and judgmental. If I ever mentioned Susan or her family, he would disparage them mercilessly.  I remember feeling very confused and conflicted: why would he say these things? I enjoyed spending time with these people; I never saw any of these reported flaws or failures. I tried never to let him know when I'd been with them, afraid to "poke the bear," so to speak, but he was like this with everyone. 

Yes, I was young and I'm sure I missed some things. I now recognize that my father was doing the best he could, given the example that was set by my grandfather, but damn...it sure has led to a lot of challenges. 

What I remember of being at Susan's house is always fun: her parents were kind, gracious people (even to teenagers!) and they never seemed to mind my presence. They treated their children kindly and with affection. No, they weren't perfect, and neither were their kids, but I remember how welcoming they were, how much warmth I felt when I was in their home, and I will never forget that feeling.

After thinking about this, I found Susan, thanks to social media, and sent her a message of gratitude; she was so surprised that she immediately called her father to pass along the message. She proceeded to remind me of an incident that took place in my home, during which my father served us scrambled eggs. Susan didn't want them, tried to refuse politely, yet he insisted that she eat them; with tears in her eyes, while nearly gagging, she ate them because of her fear of his strict style of discipline. What a pleasant memory to carry around, right?

I am so grateful for the individuals and families who have provided me with kindness, compassion and unconditional love; I treasure each of them yet find myself, at times, still yearning for something that has been lost.  

The Girl in the Garden by Melanie Wallace

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