1. House Not Home
Grimwalt Place, top of Burrough Hill, eclipsed by weedy vine and long-dead ivy was never home. I never thought I would return. My taxi rolled past the rusted gate toward the circle drive lined with garish, oversized animal statuary. Humid decay, hanging thick in the air, blotted out the smoky, greasy taxi odors. This place was dead or should be.
I paid my fare, grabbed my small valise and stepped out into the sick, grey atmosphere heavy with memory and threatening rain. I tripped on rise in the cement and my ey
es caught something screaming orange against the grey bushes and yellowed xoysia
grass. Christ, Mother had painted the lawn jockey.
The house itself had not been changed or maintained since the night I left 15 years before. Nature encroached, leaks became pools, and hairline cracks grew into fissures and gullies. It should have made me angry or sad, but my childhood home always disgusted me anyway. I lingered on the porch. I didn’t want to be here and I did not want to see her.
I pressed my palm against a cool pillar, got steady. Moths fluttered close to me and a hairy spider skittered off behind the porch light to a web full of captured forfeit lives. This is temporary. This is not my home. This is a stopping-off place. Halfway-house.
Half-way between new life and old life. Not my destination. Nothing of me will stay or reside here.
I will not die here. I am not my father, nor my brother. I am not Enid. I may not even be a Grimwalt. I scanned the yard once more. That damned unholy orange lawn jockey. He’s out there with his ugly lantern to call all dead things home.
“Dahlia! Get yourself in here! Oh, you’ll be rained on and my floors will be muddy!
Oh LOOOOK at you!” Her little claws seized my shoulders and pulled me into the foyer. Fake nails and big jewelry, creped skin and age spots. Little diamond-encrusted claws. First thing I see of my mother in 15 years.
Enid Redding Shields Grimwalt. No relation to Otis, Brooke or anyone else of note.
A tiny woman, crow-like with her beady black eyes and addiction to shiny objects. Born in a hardscrabble tiny town and raised by loving people with nothing. I never knew my grandparents, but according to Enid they had nothing. “One piss-pot and a dirt floor.”
Enid was a pretty child and knew it. She had been married before she met my father. Poor Mr. Shields had passed on when she was only 23. He had had more than nothing, but not really enough. Enid demanded both admiration and trinkets. She had just
about exhausted Mr. Shield’s life insurance money when Dad met her and lost his mind.
I get it. She’s my mother. I came from that. I’m no better than that. Except I saw her greed
then like I see it now. She may not have kept the exterior of the house up, but Enid is all about self-maintenance. She has had work done, eyes and boobs and lip plumping. The long nails are her own, immaculately manicured and bright magenta. She’s tan without any lines. Her hair, a chestnut cloud with copper highlights. Rail thin and wearing white. She’s still beautiful–not genuine, not natural–but certainly a gorgeous, well-preserved shell without a single drop of love in her. Hollow as a cheap chocolate bunny.
I step through the door and into Enid’s Wonderland. She is using a hot pink Venus de Milo as a coat rack. Heavy moss green velvet wallpaper everywhere. Poufy furniture with giant aqua flowers. Zebra striped coffee table with purple legs. Deep red shag carpet. Orange pendant lights that look like giant teardrops. Snakeskin lampshades. Cheetah throw pillows. Willy Wonka and Ernest Hemingway in an abusive marriage.