Santa threw up again.
That's what I say to my mother every year as I walk into my childhood home. I know, I am such a sweet daughter. My mom bombards every inch of her house with Christmas decor. The Santa Clauses stare at me with their vacant dead eyes. I know in those instances there's no place like home for the holidays.
My mom picked me up from the airport and we made our yearly stop at the Bolingbrook promenade mall. People bustled around, shopping bags filling their arms, rushing to finish last minute shopping. We were looking for a blush dress that I could wear to my friend's wedding that will take place in early January. Last minute as well, but our urgency was less pressing. The immense tree in the center of the shopping area was accompanied by a blaring song, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." The tune mixed with the frantic bodies combined to create a cacophony of sounds that pulsed through the small road which was adorned by a decorative sign. The street was named Hemingway. The Chicago temperatures stretched to a mere twenty degrees. I had forgotten that abrupt feeling that occurs as your body exits the arctic air and enters the warmth of a store. It is both pleasant and jarring. You forget a lot of things when you're away long enough.
I was thirteen when my mom decided we should move to Plainfield, Illinois. I remember the many phone calls where she cited her reasoning as "I want them to have access to a better school district." The truth was that my brothers were smashing car windows, smoking weed, and skipping school constantly. I don't know when the last straw was but it might have been around the time that they left me home alone when she was working a night shift. We were living in Bolingbrook, Illinois then. Drew Peterson was the police officer on duty who called my mother to inform her that the boys had broken curfew along with a few other laws. Yes, the same Drew Peterson whose third wife was murdered and his fourth wife went missing. Apparently I was sleeping throughout the whole exchange.
My childhood consists of similar strange incidents such as this. None of them are particularly traumatizing, depending on the person whose reading I presume. Yet, there is something unsettling about visiting the place where you morphed into a cognoscente member of society. You no longer inhabit the place that shaped you but this is where you became you. Anytime I come home I feel like I'm in a movie montage as my past, the good and the ugly, plays out in my head on repeat.
We departed Francesca's and although there were a few more stores I wanted to walk to down the way, I stopped.
I looked at the area where I had been proposed to four years prior. I remember how my glove wouldn’t come off. “You light up my life like nobody else…” He sang the song off tune and my life made sense in a way that it hasn’t in a long time. The montage moves to the moment I gave up on our relationship. My ex-fiance informed me that he wanted to take his friend to New York. My hair was in curls and I was wearing a much too pink dress. We were supposed to take our engagement photos.
This was only four years ago. He is married to someone else now. Memories like this aren’t filled with pain or regret. I think about them as if I’m peeking into the window of someone else’s house.
Whenever I come home, I feel like the ghost of Christmas past, showing myself who I used to be.
I will never understand how people can change and stay the same in the exact same body. The awkward seventeen-year-old who painted her face with neon colors in an attempt to stand out and fit in is more alive here in this place than when I’m back in Baltimore. She’s still alive though. I spend a lot of time running from her, but here she is, waiting.
So I ask myself, does going home have to be this emotionally tumultuous thing?
I lost my first love here. Fifteen minutes away, one of my best friend’s died on a gravel road. This is where I learned that abuse changes people.
All of those facts remain true. They don’t negate another truth, a bigger truth. I am still the new me despite the memories that exist in this place. They do not threaten who I have become. I sit on my couch with a cup of tea, snuggled in my nutcracker jammies. I am simultaneously my teenage self and my now self. I accept that I am not who I thought I was going to be. Is anyone?
I am a teacher in Baltimore City. I am a girlfriend to an incredibly sweet, often times grouchy man who teaches me about patience, love, and understanding every single day. I am presently completing my MFA at the University of Baltimore.
One second I was the me four years ago and then a variety of choices I hardly remember making happened and here I am. It is Christmas 2017. Santa threw up again. Some things will always stay the same and some will never be the same. I spend so much time worrying about this and the future. James always says, “Stop being stuck in what could happen. I could be hit by a bus tomorrow.” I hate when he says this. I hate it so incredibly much.
It’s true though. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We can prepare and plan and make goals. We can want and wish and hope. And still, we just don’t know.
A Danish philosopher, Søren Aabye Kierkegaard, wrote, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
I have been living life backward, stuck in between those minutes that have come and gone, long ago. There is a painting on the far wall next to the fireplace that often catches my eye. It has four sleds that lean against a fence. Each one has a name in it, not one of us remotely the same person as we were when the artwork was bought. It hits me then, why would we be? Why is it so surprising that time passes? Nostalgia cracks your ribs open, but if you sit long enough, it can also close those same divots.
I think coming home will always be an emotional time for me. I also know that just because I have been broken does not mean I have to continue to break.
We passed by the house I grew up in on the first day I was back. “Mom, that’s the street where our first house is!” She nodded and turned without prompting. I think we wanted to “take a trip down memory lane.” When the bombs went off in Hiroshima they say that the people and objects made literal imprints on the ground. There were no bombs here. I see the shadows though, pressed into the siding of the house. They’re only visible to us. I snap a few pictures of the house where we lived.
We drove away and I’m back on the couch, just trying to be here. I never knew there would be a day where it would be so incredibly hard to just exist without all of the yesterdays telling you what to do. I never knew that NOW would be so impossibly difficult. I wiggle my toes and yawn. I think about what book I’m going to read. I spread myself in this moment like jam so that nothing from either side of my existence can seep in.
I’m glad that my mom keeps the Christmas decorations up until I leave. It’s my favorite time of the year.
Today was strange.
Well, most of my days are strange. Today, was top of the cake strange or maybe I should say it tops the cake on all of my other bizarre days.
It could have been the student with the machete or possibly the earthquake. I mean, the earthquake may not be that unusual in California but in Baltimore there is not a lot of shaking (the seismic kind at least. Twerking maybe).
I'm not at liberty to discuss the student & the machete. Except to say that it existed (maybe in my school - maybe not) and that just doesn't sit right with any parts of my gut. They always make announcements saying "Students... put your book bags in your locker. Teachers anything could be inside a book bag. Make sure students put them in their lockers." Here's the thing. I just didn't think that anything could be a freaking machete. THIS is not to confirm there was an actual machete in my school, because I can't confirm or deny that. I would just say, be comforted if the zombie apocalypse happens. We've got your back.
This blog is not about machete's or the 4.8 earthquake that happened in Delaware and caused some boogie breakdowns in Baltimore. No, this blog is about my stress level and my need to clean but no time to do it. Cleaning actually relaxes me. I still don't like it that much. People that really really like to clean freak me out. I don't like to deep clean, that's for the birds.
So ... that leads me back to the fact that I only had a small amount of time to clean my stress away.
I set a clock for 30:00 I knew that I was probably going to clean for a little longer than this. However, there is something about the countdown that makes me move quickly and efficiently.
you are bound to lose a little
Tip One: Throw everything onto your bed that you plan on organizing. This gets the floor clean and ensures that you'll do something with your clutter to make it less clutteryyy. You aren't going to leave it on the place you sleep. **I'm not saying that I haven't slept on dirty laundry because I have and I probably will again at sometime in my life but we don't need to discuss that right at this moment.
Tip Two: Hang everything that needs to be hung up, FIRST. For you non-messy folk, this isn't even a problem. You have some kind of magic wand that lets your clothes never fall on the floor to begin with. I don't have this magic wand shoved up my ass, I mean... in general I'm not able to keep that organized, so the pile happens. When the pile happens, I start by hanging the things that need to be hung up. Putting the clothes on the hangers goes relatively quick and if you don't have time to put them in their spots, you can find a place to hang the lot of it, and put them away properly later.
Don't get me wrong, my motto is - or was: Don't do something later that you can do now. However, I'm so busy that my eyeballs literally threaten me on a daily basis. My own damn eyeballs, IF you don't slow the hell down, we are going to pop out of your pretty little head." Eyeballs can be mean son-of-a-bitches.
Tip Three: Fold your messy shit into piles. Tanks into one. T-shirts into another and so on and so on. My Nana used to say that everything has a place and so in my room, everything does have a home, including the most random of objects, meaning I have a random objects bin. I don't have a separate space for each category of random things. I can only aspire to be that epic.
Tip Four: After putting away some of your messy shit take a few selfies and do some strange dances that you swear nobody will ever see until you realize that you left your blinds open again.
Tip Five: Label things that need to be done in regards to clothes. For example, there was a skirt that needed to be ironed. I clipped a post it note onto the hanger with a binder clip so that the next time I went to wear said piece of clothing I know that it is not ready for immediate use. This is not a necessary stop and can be skipped if you're lazy like me.
As you clean, put together a few outfits and find a place to hang them in your room. Now you're ahead of the game. Use these outfits through out the week. #bossstatus To make more room in my space I bought a hanging rack at target for $24! An amazing deal and purchase that I do not regret!
Messy & busy girls don't need just a dirty laundry bin. We need a dirty laundry bin andddd a clean laundry bin. This is supposed to help with the laundry on the floor bit. If I'm trying on a few outfits, I NEVER do what I'm supposed to and hang the clothes right back up. That would probably be the ultimate time saver.
Ok. Stop judging. This blog is for the BUSY girl. Not the totally put together, judgey girl.
The not really a tip, tip: I went to Chicago and then hopped on a plane to Ireland. I didn't have the time to clean my bags out in between and in the few weeks since I've gotten back, between graduate school and teaching, those bags were the least of my concern. I emptied three of the four today and threw the remaining crap in the last bag. That's what we call condensing. Now instead of four bags to clean out, I only have one left. HOW productive am I?
Throw as much as possible away. Really. When in doubt, throw it out. The 99% of the time that you are thankful you have less clutter will outweigh the 1% of the time that you find yourself wondering where that black hat that looked cute in the one picture from 2008 went.
So after zooming around my room like sonic the hedgehog, a miracle happened and I could finally see floor. I have really had to fight against the idea of "perfect" the last few years. There is a lot I want to accomplish and I have to sacrifice perfect in order to be the person I want to be.
I could totally have a clean house, only be a teacher, and go out occasionally. Except, I don't want a small, tidy life. I want a big, messy life.
This means that sometimes I have to set a timer and clean as much as I can in said allotted time. IT means that I have multiple laundry bins. I label things for later. It means that sometimes I find empty candy wrappers in my underwear drawer. Okay... I probably don't have to do that one. I. Just. Feel. So. Guilty (My name is Emily and I love sweets. It is (not) a problem).
Alright, what are you waiting for?
Put that timer on. Go. Go. GO!
About the blog:
Emily Ann Hansen
I'm a writer and teacher living in Baltimore City. I'm originally from Chicago. I graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Fiction. Instead of babbling, I will list a few of the things in life that make me happy: