This Old House

 

Sometimes stories begin with endings, with hard lessons and tough realities. That seemed to be a constant for me.

You see, I’ve been on my own in one way or another since I was 14 years old. Although, my upbringing was what most would consider privileged – my parents fall from grace was swift and heavy. We lost everything. The house, the cars, the money, the lifestyle. It was during this impressionable period of time, right after High School began, that I found myself coping with partying – making questionable choices with questionable people. A million heart aches and traumatic scenarios later, I found myself back in my home state of California – living near where I grew up with all the promises of wrongs being made right with a father who I barely knew anymore.

This of course didn’t happen, as one could expect – and once again, I found myself lost and looking, trying to make sense of how I got there and how I would survive. The only word I can use to describe my teenage years into early adult hood is “Devastating” – and its more like “DEVASTATING”, all caps necessary. and then I met him. He was rebellious in a way that seemed simple, no hang ups that would be too much to bear. He was my tall, dark, handsome and artistic that I always wanted and idolized. I met him at a poetry slam, as silly as that seems now, while on a date with his little brother – instantly realizing his brother was no one i’d ever take seriously. His name was Vinnie, and he was wildly emotionally unavailable – which only kept me there longer. Years went by since that first encounter and we kept in touch after I moved by the ocean in Santa Cruz. He suggested I come to visit, so I did – and we got stuck on a mountain top, in the middle of no where, where he was growing weed – as charming as that seemed at the time, I can say that my age and impressionability showed through my idea of romance.

I still remember the day I found out I was pregnant. I was 18, and had planned a break up with Vinnie by moving back to Seattle. I saw instability in him that made me scared for his safety, and mine, so I called my mom and booked a flight back – hoping the distance would be a way of easing out of the relationship. I got off the plane, sick to my stomach – only to discover what I was most afraid of in the public bathroom at target shortly after arriving. I knew right then what I was facing. I was terrified.

Four years, two kids, a million moves between California and Washington State later – I found myself loading up my moms sedan, after months of talking in secret over the phone as to not upset the instability that haunted us – keeping what we could and moving back to a place I never wanted to be again, hoping for a chance at a healthy life for my daughters, and for myself. A beginning.

When we arrived, I remember feeling disappointed but grateful. I had no furniture, no clothes, no money, no car. I had two little girls and an empty canvas. My unit was directly next to my moms, and she was there with me – helping me through the transition as much as she could. My sister and her had painted the walls and kitchen white ahead of time, changed out the light fixtures and cleaned so that we would feel more comfortable in our new space. I was scared, but much like when I attempted to move to Seattle prior to realizing my pregnancy, nothing was set in stone – I had hoped he would realize what he had done, I had hope this would rectify itself.

Weeks went by without furniture or money – the money I had been stashing in my daughters piggy bank prior to the move had become none existent. My mom had started giving me items out of her own house, like a couch and my sister gave me a bed from her spare room. My grandparents raided their attic for stored extras and we began making a home out of forgotten cardboard boxes full of second hand gratefulness. We had picked up a can of paint and chevroned a wall, found a rug at the good will for 5 dollars – and splurged at Ikea for a tv stand. We had enough, we felt okay. During this time we saw my ex husband once, for one day, he was supposed to bring up the rest of our stuff and instead brought up items marked for the good will. He was so out of it, he left thousands of dollars of weed behind by accident, in a place where our curious daughters could have found it. I threw it away, I was disgusted. We haven’t seen him since.

Months went by without hearing a word from him, our little home continually evolving during this time into one where we found freedom and happiness. This was the home that gave me back my heart, the one that taught me that I was worth love, the one where I grieved the years of abuse and walking on egg shells and let down my guard. We were poor, on food stamps, and collecting state aid, but here I was with my two daughters – happier than I had ever been, seeing them happier than I had ever seen them. There is something that happens as a parent leaving a situation that is volatile, you see joy in ways you didn’t realize you were missing.

A very humble Christmas passed, still no word outside of an arrest here or a poor choice there – and I made a choice that I am so grateful for to this day. I filed for divorce. With no money, I was my own lawyer. In that year, the walls of our home became my sanctuary, I painstakingly went through every legal hypothetical in order to make sure we were protected – and I had succeeded. I wouldn’t be officially divorced until the following October, but it didn’t matter anymore – I found what he had been trying to keep me from knowing the power of for so long – I found myself. I had also had been found.

I remember that night, I had put the girls to bed and was sitting up in my room, using a left over lap top that had little to no life left – and up came a request from an old friend on old reliable Facebook. There are moments in time where you see the continuity of relationships – the ones that just never go away, no matter how much you want to reject the idea. That was this old friend. Joe Tejeda. He was my first ever boyfriend at the tender age of 12, and here was was again – just like he was when I was a teen – unexpected and comforting. I didn’t have a phone, so we would email back and forth, and from email went to Skype – I remember being so scared of how I would be perceived, his lifestyle was that of my origins – and my second hand home felt inferior. I let go of that shame though, and let him in my life – after years of being pursued – and fighting the emotionally available, I caved. Realizing it was what I needed all along. He moved to Washington two months later, and we were married shortly after – celebrating in that chevron stripped second hand living room.

A home is a reflection of life – from the things you decorate with, to the things you collect or use out of function – In large part it is the biggest connection to our souls in physical form. We reside, we resist and we center in a space that we create for our hearts and our interests. This home will always be my favorite home. It represents so much more than the sinking roof, or questionable neighborhood. This was the place life restored me. I am grateful.

 

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5 Responses

  • Resiliency, beauty, grace, forgiveness, bravery….this story touches my heart. Always wanting the best for our littles. The thread that intertwines all of us Mamas. And the journey to loving ourselves and lifting the veil. So much hope and beauty in the journey. Thank you for sharing you heart, Bri!❤️

  • I am a voracious reader, yet I think this is the most beautiful piece I’ve ever read. Raw yet complete; in pieces yet whole. Bravo. I applaud your heart and resilience.

  • Bri, your story touched me. I can truly relate in so many ways. I’m so sorry that your youth was not nurtured in the way that you deserved… those teenage and young adult years can be TOUGH without it. It’s heart wrenching to read- so many attempts at rehabilitation of your life and your self, thank God you did not give up. Your life is a shining example of resilience. Try, try, again they say. The reality of that mantra never clearer, than here in your story. It takes a lot of work. Thank you for sharing. xx

  • Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your story, your resilience, and so grateful that you found the peace and happiness we all deserve.

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