Monday, May 24, 2010

Moving Home

I know I've talked about when Kelsey moved home before.  That period was stressful for Greg and me as parents because it was one of those times when whatever you do for the one child is going to be detrimental to the other one.  I don't know if the parents of boys go through that as much - I'm sure some do - but girls are just primed for it.  Because everything is so emotionally charged in a house full of hormonal women.  But, in our case, it wasn't just someone's resentment or jealousy, Marissa really was better off mentally and physically without Kelsey in the house.  Kelsey, for her part, was triggered by her tiny framed sister who had eating issues of her own.  (As a side note, I was at an AFED volunteer meeting Saturday where someone declared that they hate the word "trigger".  I laughed a bit because I use it a hundred times a day because, for us, there was never a more fitting word.  Things happen that cause one or the other of us to flare up like we are a loaded shotgun.  At times, no matter how therapy-trained we are, situations simply explode.)  Yet, what were our choices?  We were financially tapped out after years of treatments and paying Kelsey's rent, she clearly wasn't at a place emotionally where she should be living all alone, and she truly had no where else to go.  We reasoned too that Marissa would be leaving for college soon.  She had already applied to and been accepted to several colleges across the country, none of them in Texas, so she would be making her escape soon enough.

Kelsey met with her father and me at a centrally located Starbucks - sort of like neutral territory to negotiate a peace treaty - to discuss the move home.  When you look back on it, you realize that she called for the meeting as much to convince herself about it, as it was for us to discuss ground rules on both sides.  I know this probably isn't true, but I remember it as being the last truly rational conversation we had with her.  After that, it was almost always The Beast who was pulling the strings.  But, that's a little off topic.  Anyway, the real topic is to explain about how she got her old room back.

She told us, and herself, that the move was temporary.  That she needed some time to re-group and save a little.  She admitted that she was not doing well with her bulimia, but she wanted the space and dignity to try and handle it on her own, and if she needed help she would ask.  She didn't want us to put locks on the cabinets or padlock the refrigerator.  She knew what she needed to do and she committed to us that she would do it.  All of it seemed reasonable and very adult.  Of course, by the end, I was hiding coffee and peanut butter under the doggie stairs next to my bed, and she was attacking us with her best Linda Blair impression asking why we weren't doing anything to help her, while at the same time countermanding anything and everything we tried.  I know Kelsey, my real daughter, was trapped in there somewhere and it was The Beast doing all the ranting and raving, but that did not make it any easier to handle.

The first conflict was over where she was moving back to.  She clearly had one mental picture in mind, I had another, and we were both so sure of our own images, it never occurred to either of us that they were different.  For my part, I hung onto the word temporary.  So, sort of like a guest.  She had taken her bedroom furniture with her when she moved out, so I had set up her room as a guest bedroom, indulging my homesickness for the mountains by decorating it in a wildlife/forest theme.  There were lots of portraits of rugged mountain peaks shrouded in fog sharing space with little wolf figurines, and the vanity sported actual deer antlers left behind by the deer herd I share this property with.  No one but me liked it, but I thought it was cute.  Dismantling it again after lovingly collecting the things that I had used to decorate it with wasn't really what I wanted to do.  And she didn't seem to be asking that of me.  She said she'd put her things in storage.  Of course, she had it in her head that she would move back into Marissa's room and use Marissa's furniture.  I totally didn't pick up on that until a particular phone call shortly before she was set to move in.

That call did not go well.  She was dramatically upset when she thought I was relegating her to a guest in her own home and forcing her to stay in a room that looked like a second rate small town motel room (those were not her words, but that was the gist).  She wanted to have her own things up and have her own sense of space.  And she wanted the best room.  Which I explained was Marissa's room, and I was uncomfortable pushing her out of her own space.  I understood wanting your own stuff up, and I could concede that, albeit with some sadness for my antlers, wolves and little cabin-like flairs.  But I was not okay with shoving Marissa around - particularly given how jam packed her room was.  What a logistical nightmare.  And, I saw during that call that "temporary" was a relative term.  I realized Kelsey was settling in for longer than a three month stay, or even a six month stay.  On the other hand, Marissa was about to leave for dorm life.  So, in the end, Kelsey got her way.  She moved back into the room at the end of the hall.

We painted it a mutually agreed upon color that, at some future date would compliment a full array of Steeler black and gold (I had ambitions of making it a sports themed room when I was a legitimate Empty Nester), but also allowed her collection of art to be tastefully displayed for the time being.  And so she went to work and created her own space.

And it was well done.  She had a definite eye for decorating.  An artist's touch.  Not too busy, not too sparse.   Tasteful, yet young, like she was. But, the Beast messed things up even in there.  I cannot get the carpet completely clean, despite shampooing it more than once.  She threw up too many times, and it's permanently stained and vaguely sticky.  I could not look at the space without seeing  both the best and the worst of my daughter on display.  If I did go up there, it was as briefly as I could possibly make it.  I got what I needed and practically raced back down the hall and down the stairs, as if I was being chased.

The dust gathered and the shadows loomed.  Until Marissa had the courage to say enough.

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