Playing House

When I was little, I wanted a playhouse. It seemed the ultimate fantasy to me — to have a tiny house of my very own to play in.

A few years ago, thinking about a nomadic life, I looked at tiny houses, campers, gypsy wagons — grown-up playhouses, in other words. As it turned out, hauling around a tiny house of any kind would be more than my ancient car could handle, so I’d not only have to buy the house, but a heavy-duty truck, too, which made that idea unfeasible.

I’m still not quite sure how it happened, but here I am with my own little house. It’s stationary, not something I could haul around, but that’s okay. I like having a plot of land with its dreams of future flowers. And I like having a playhouse. I was never one for housework — it was too energy consuming and there were always other things more important to spend my energy on. But today’s cleaning tools make housework seem so easy. Dusters that pick up the dust instead of pushing it around. Sweepers that dry mop the floor swifterly. A kitchen with a place for everything.

There’s no drudgery when you’re playing house!

The things that need fixing around the property are still not getting fixed, but I have a hunch one of these days everything will happen at once. Then I’ll wonder what hit me. For the most part, though, waiting is not a problem. I’m used to waiting, and besides, I’m getting to know the house and the town. In some respects, it’s as if I’ve lived here a very long time — I’ve made some good friends, and I feel at home here.

On a more serious note, it’s odd to think of all the deaths and traumas that led directly and indirectly to my having a home of my own — odd because I don’t really feel those deaths anymore, not even Jeff’s. It’s been too long since I was with Jeff, and I’ve become so different that I have few tears left in me. It’s hard to believe I was ever that woman, or rather those women. The one who loved with her whole being, the one who numbly kept a death vigil for many years, the one who screamed her grief to the uncaring winds. All of those women are gone. The woman I am today is both less and more than they were. “Less” because I seem to have burned out all my deep-seated emotions and come to a time of lowered expectations; “more” because I have reached a place of peace and perhaps even joy.

(I sometimes fear that I am getting so far from my grief that if a new friend loses a spouse, I will shrug it off with a private feeling of “been there, done that.” But that’s a worry for another time.)

I’m still not back to writing, though I have come upon a couple of more bits for a possible mystery. I found a remnant of fabric in the grass, and when I couldn’t simply pick it up, I got out the shovel. Turns someone had buried a red-spattered shirt. The red was part of the shirt design, but it could easily have been something more sinister. And then there was the baby photo hidden in the basement . . .

Not everything is hunky-dory, of course — it never is. My bugaboo is literally a bug. Or rather, lots of bugs. Mosquitos, spiders, monstrous beetles. But we’re reaching an accommodation of sorts. I leave them alone if they leave me alone, but they take their life in their mandibles if they get into the house. It’s a playhouse, after all, not a bug house!


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

13 Responses to “Playing House”

  1. kcoffman Says:

    Pay, We have a desperate need for you to work through what life has thrown at you and find peace. You might reject this, but you have been a leader, a guidance counselor, our guru or shaman. I always hoped you would lead us to a good place and if it wasn’t real, to fake it for our benefit. You are a model for what happens if we don’t give in to world-weary despair. We need things to work out for you so there’s hope for us.

  2. SheilaDeeth Says:

    I used to dream of a playhouse too. Oddly, we ended up buying a house with a tiny playhouse when our sons were small and they loved it, spiders and all. (One day they locked a dear friend’s son in the”windy” / Wendy house.) Now the sons are all grown and my “play”house is far too large. I enjoy life’s new tools, and I’m playing house with the flowers outside as the sun comes out.

    I’m so glad your house has become a welcome home, and I’m eager to read its mysteries.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      If it didn’t get so windy here, I’d consider building a tiny, tiny house out in my yard, but I’m afraid it would blow away, or even worse, cause damage. But I got my big playhouse, so I’m content with that.

  3. Judy Galyon Says:

    ,I am so glad to hear that you are getting to your “happy place”.

  4. Constance Koch Says:

    Like to hear about your house and your happiness. I am so happy for you.

  5. Carol J. Garvin Says:

    Years ago I don’t think you believed you would ever have the grief so minimized or contained that you’d be able to say you were content. I’m so glad to hear you say it now, and I’m truly happy for you.

    We’ve been fortunate to have “little houses” for most of our married life — started with a homemade tent trailer and through the years upgraded to various RVs. Camping in our little trailers was always fun; housework was almost non-existent and we pursued a very simple lifestyle, at least while away camping. A couple years ago, however, after over 50 years of RV-camping, we finally sold our last trailer. Towing it in traffic and finding places to park and camp became too stressful . I do miss the lifestyle, but with increasing age I’ve also become more sedentary and content to putter around our home and gardens.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I always liked the idea of a home that went wherever I did, but I didn’t think I could handle the stress of the driving, let alone the problem of finding places to park. I envy you all those years of such a life style.

      You’re right — there were a lot of years where I couldn’t believe there would ever come a time of “not grief”, though in the beginning, I wanted to hurry through grief as fast as possible. I thought that if there was such an immense emotional/physical state such as grief, there should be an equal and opposite state waiting for me to balance out all the pain. I wanted so much to skip to that place of wonder. And now, here I am. It’s odd, but if I knew back then that my something wonderful would be a home of my own, it would have only added to my stress. I didn’t want any sort of responsibility, didn’t want to have to take care of anyone or anything, and a house is definitely something that needs to be taken care of.

      Now that I am here, though, it’s amazing how much joy having a home has been. Just the sight of my lovely rooms makes me smile. Having my things around me makes me smile.

      There is so much in my life to be grateful for, including you. Thank you for your support all these years. You have brought me much comfort.

  6. House Proud | Bertram's Blog Says:

    […] Surprisingly (surprisingly to me, that is), all this housework doesn’t feel like work. It feels like playing house. […]

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