Ever since I moved out, I’ve never felt comfortable coming back home. Whether it’s sitting on the old swing set in the backyard or sleeping in my childhood bedroom, there’s something about coming back to my parents’ house that makes me uneasy. I can feel it the minute I pull in the driveway. Suddenly there isn’t enough air in the car; the crush of memories, both good and bad, slowly start to suffocate me the minute my headlights hit the mailbox out front. By the time I’ve ascended the all too familiar steps to the back door, I’m practically gasping for breath, clutching at the doorknob in order to keep my body and my mind upright.
As if steady feet will lead to a steady heart.
I don’t know what it is that makes me feel this way. Granted, it’s been more than a decade since I first left home. In those ten years, a lot has happened between my parents and I. Some good, some very bad. Which isn’t to say I don’t love them, and they don’t love me.
If anything, I think we love each other too much.
I managed to spend roughly 24 hours in total at my parents’ house last week when I went home. Out of the four days I was in town, I was able to spend just one with them before I felt I had to leave; escape, really. And it wasn’t because they were doing anything wrong. Our visit was actually a very amicable one; there were no fights or lectures; no cutting remarks or harsh judgements. For once, we actually managed to get along.
Which is why I left.
I realize this makes me sound like a terrible daughter. I have friends who would give anything to have the opportunity to see their parents one more time. To have the chance to talk to them, hug them, argue with them. I’m not naive; I know that one day, probably very soon, I won’t have the option of going home.
And while I still have my parents, I know what that feeling is like.
This time, I drove out of that driveway knowing I could come back.
That hasn’t always been the case.
I’ve lost my parents before. We’ve literally spent years not speaking to each other. Months upon months of stubborn, useless silence. No phone calls, no visits. Holidays where we’ve avoided each other; birthdays without cards. Wasted time.
I’ve left my parents’ house multiple times not knowing when I’ll see them or hear from them again. I’ve driven away furious, broken, hurt, and alone. Only to return weeks or months later, not knowing what kind of reception to expect. More often than not, I’d come home to a cold shoulder. A lot of the time I even deserved it.
Home is where the heart is. That includes the broken ones.
I know my parents were hurt when I left last week. I know they wanted me to stay, even if just for a few more hours. But the longer I stayed, the greater the risk was that I’d screw it up; that I’d say or do something that would tip the scale and result in yet another prolonged exile.
I left before that could happen.
Counterintuitive as it might sound, I left so I could have the opportunity to come back.
Because, as hard as it is for me to pull into that driveway, a part of me will always want to, need to, go home.
Now I can.