The friendly little girl pointed all of them out to me.
“And that’s Kool-Aid, that’s Play-Doh, and I don’t know what that is – glue, maybe, that’s where we do crafts – oh, and that’s chocolate milk!”
I pretended to be interested in the brown and pink spots that dotted what was once my new carpet. Our tenants had lived in our little three-bedroom house for going on two years, longer than we had after we built it.
It was our first house, and we lived there for four months before my husband got a job that relocated us over 500 miles away. We couldn’t sell it right away because we were among the first residents in a new housing development and nobody wanted to buy a slightly used house when they could buy their own new one. The best we could do for a while was rent ours to families who for various reasons couldn’t or didn’t want to buy their own home, families with so many children that one of them slept in the hall.
We were on a trip to do a walk-through with our real estate agent before putting it back on the market to sell. We hadn’t been there in over two years.
You have a soft spot for your first house. We had exciting memories of sitting in a showroom, choosing tile and carpet and siding and shutter paint, deciding on transom windows and nine-foot ceilings and cabinet color. We visited it while it was being built and took pictures of each other witnessing its progress. Friends helped us move in when it was finished and we ate our first meal out of pizza boxes on the dining room floor. We thought we would raise babies in that house. I knew every inch of it, even after only living there for four months.
And it was wrecked. Lived in. Hard.
I wasn’t angry, really. They were nice people and paid their rent, and never complained about anything. We had only one child at the time, but I knew what seven people – five of them rambunctious kids – could do to a house. I certainly didn’t expect them to care for my first home like we did. It was just a rental. They weren’t even the first tenants to live there.
As I moved through the rooms, stepping over the stained carpet, trying not to stare wide-eyed at the scuffed walls, the filthy baseboards, and doors hanging askew, my shock at the mess and weepy nostalgic feelings faded with every step. All of this dissipated when we said goodbye and shut the door behind us. Still, the agent was professional and matter-of-fact in a way that I couldn’t be.
“We have to get them out of there if you want to sell this house.”
His words hit the mark. This wasn’t our home anymore. Soon this house would be vacant, all evidence of a messy life – and our new, once-promising one – gone, replaced by new carpet and paint and trim, memories of former lives power-washed away. It was just a structure that we needed to unload financially.
We never visited our first house again. It eventually sold, and we washed our hands of its debt and continued upkeep. It was someone else’s home now, ready to be filled with new life. All we owned of it now were a few memories. Sometimes, I look it up online, to see how our old neighborhood grew up without us. I see mature trees and flowerbeds and evidence of lives well-lived. I’m glad to have those years behind us, our first house experience in the past.
Prompt #5: Write a blog post inspired by the word stain.