When I was a child, my Mother was a domestic engineer. Back in the 1970s that was the what would become a politically correct version of housewife. Whatever the term of the day for a mother whose career is raising her family, my Mom was it. By the time I was five or six, I had consumed a hen house full of eggs for breakfast. Every morning my plate held an unseasoned scrambled egg and a piece or two of bacon. The bacon always tasted great because God imbedded tastiness pork bellies. While the good Lord scored points with bacon, eggs he or she kinda fudged up on.
From the time I could eat solid food, Mom shoveled her flavorless eggs down my gob. I look back on the mid-1970s believing there were a salt and pepper blight. There could be no other reason Mom wasn’t coming off the seasoning—it didn’t exist. I was raised with the do what your parents told you ethic. Short of murder or treason, I was stuck eating shitty eggs.
Every morsel of scrambled eggs fueled rebellion within my tiny pre-schooler’s heart until one day I raged against the chef. That’s not entirely true. A frontal assault against my Mother would have been a World War I style trench raid I could not have won. Deception was the only weapon in my egg-ssault, and it took me three days to pull it off. The kitchen, where the eggs of Monte Cristo were daily served, was right next to the den. There my salvation took the form of lime covered rocks piled high around the grooviest fireplace man or demigod ever engineered.
The Fireplace and the Scene of the Crime 40 Years Later
For those three days, I bided my time until my mother left the kitchen. I didn’t know how long I would have, but my plan was solid. I could not dispose of the eggs in the trashcan. No, the all-seeing eye of motherhood would catch that play. I would bury the eggs in the white rocks that surrounded the fireplace. I jumped off the stool, plate in hand, sprinting for the rocks. My tiny hands parted the rocks until I’d made a deep enough hole. I flung the cursed eggs down, covered them, trucked back to the kitchen, and vaulted onto a stool before my mother returned.
My mother was none the wiser, and I’d gotten out of eating eggs. What I didn’t know about at five was decomposition. I had no conception of how badly rotten eggs would stink up the house during a Nashville summer, or of the nuclear ass whooping my father gave me. That came before I was told to clean out every microbe of eggs in the rocks with my hands.
Twenty years later, I bought the house, sans rotten eggs but with the fireplace, from my parents. Twenty years ago, that sounded like a grand idea. I was all with the Wonder Years nostalgia of owning my childhood home on top of the sweet deal I received on it. Thomas Wolfe’s novel, You Can’t Go Home Again, has been famously quoted and misquoted as some sort of cosmic truth. Wolfe was wrong. I couldn’t go home again because I never left.
Everything in the house was to do with as I pleased, but I didn’t. There were some cosmetic changes I made, but this house has never been my home. All the childhood bullshit is still locked away in the walls. Since “The Event,” I’ve started to change that. Figuratively and literally I’m sweeping out the cobwebs of my house. I shutter to call it a home because it’s not my home yet. I’ve been the theoretical master of this house for twenty years, and I’ve let a structure master me. No more. The fireplace that only Austin Powers might want is up for sale.
I can never actively change the past as much as I’d like to—none of us can. What we can do is make peace with the childhood homes we all carry around inside of us. Some pains never go away, but there are those who can help us manage that trauma. I used to think getting an interior decorator for my mind was a sign of weakness. That, along with keeping that fucking fireplace, was part of the past I wish I had changed. The fireplace was a silent memorial to static thought, deception instead of conflict resolution, and an atomic ass whooping. Today, I’m clearing the rocks out from under the fireplace and waiting for a buyer. I thought I had one until it turned out one of those Western Union I’ll pay you and you pay the shippers scams.
Eh… the right person will come along who will see wonderment in the shagadelic 70s fire breather. I hope they post a picture of it on Instagram with #amazingthings or #growingasahuman. I’ll do the same when the beast is out of my house. Until then, I’ve cleaned out half of the rocks, and there hasn’t been a whiff of rotten eggs. I’ll take that as a win.