The Brown House

It’s not a children’s book title, even though that’s what it sounds like.
But it was where I lived as a kid. At least, some of the time.
When other people are asked about their childhood or family home,
Most have story after story to share,
Happy, sad, hilarious, or any other tinge of emotion aside, they’re there.
But while others remember clearly their favorite and worst memories alike,
There are very few clear pictures that emerge from my mind when I think about my childhood.
The few that do appear, are usually the ones that make my heart pound, hands shake, and consciousness flee.
Not all, but most.
Those are the clear ones.
The others are thin films of emotions and circumstances barely recalled,
Like home videos that have been faded and scratched so much they’ll barely play,
But because you’ve seen them and heard them described so many times,
You remember the plots and cues to laugh perfectly.

The Brown House should have been a place where years of treasured memories were made,
And remembered as my treasured childhood home.
But instead, those memories are haunted and tainted by the sounds of angry screaming and blows.
The me who lived there would crawl into bed, or put my back into a corner, and throw a blanket over my head, clapping fists over my ears to drown it out. Anything to stop the yelling.

Now, I know that I’m no longer that little girl.
I’m not defenseless. Not trapped. Not subject to the whims of an angry father.
But sometimes I still feel like I am.
When I hear a loud noise, or people arguing, or even just feel someone annoyed nearby,
I feel like I’m trapped within my own head again, or back at the Brown House.
Every word I say, feels like it could bring down fire and brimstone upon my head,
And I have to fight myself to say anything at all,
Let alone what I actually think.
So when I start crying for no reason in the middle of a semi-serious conversation, or I stutter, or I need to scribble my words down before I say them, please understand that I’m not breaking down,
I just had to go back to the Brown House.

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