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!

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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.