Mother said it was haunted. Mother said it was moldy. Mother said it was small and dark. But I remember it differently. I remember a Spanish-style cottage with a large, scarlet bougainvillea bush growing around the front door. I remember yellow sour grass flowers bordering the stone footpath, and a swing hanging from a cypress tree. Mother threw nasturtium seeds outside the dining room window and afterwards orange, yellow, and red flowers took over in the front garden. I was happy in that house, that’s what I remember.
In the evening mother would cook brown rice and sautéed carrots for dinner, and sometimes she’d let me stand on a chair in the kitchen and help her. Afterwards we would all eat together at the large wooden dining room table. Even my dad would join us. We were happy then, that’s what I remember.
Once a bird flew through the small window next to the fireplace and our babysitter had to chase it outside with a broom. I ran behind her shouting with excitement. “What a nightmare,” she complained afterwards. But I thought it was great fun.
My brother and I shared a room at the back of the house, where a honeysuckle bush grew beneath our window. Once my mother came in and my brother was holding me by the ankles while I picked flowers and tossed them up over my shoulders. Mother said it was dangerous, and I could fall. But I loved the nectar in honeysuckle flowers, and I wasn’t scared of falling.
Once my dad hung a painted African weaving above my bed. In it there were dancing figures wearing masks and holding spears and shields. “It will give her nightmares,” my mother said. But it didn’t give me nightmares. I loved the black stick figure dancers with their masks and weapons.
Once my parents took a trip to Europe and came home with beautiful toys from Austria: a babushka two feet tall for me, a toy castle with knights and horses for my brother, stuffed animals and a laughing box for us to share. The laughing box was my favorite. Ha ha ha, it went. Ha ha ha, ha ha ha
There was another family that lived down the street, and we used to play with their kids. Once their mother got angry and sent us home. She stood at their door holding a broom, saying, “Isn’t it time you two ran along?” I was looking at her thinking that her face was not nice and that the broom in her hand made her scary. My mother was waiting on the sidewalk. She was smiling and held out her hands to my brother and me. She had come to rescue us from the witch.
One morning I walked into the bathroom and my dad was emptying a mousetrap into the toilet. “What’s that?” I asked.
“Get out of here!” he shouted and slammed the door.
Once my dad came into our bedroom and spanked my brother and me for no reason. We were confused. He had never spanked us before.
Once I snuck into the living room at night and my dad was spinning my mother around in circles while she screamed. I thought they were dancing, and I laughed. They stopped, and I saw that my mother was crying. “Go back to sleep!” my father shouted.
The next morning my mother was on her knees spackling a hole in the wall.
Soon after that my parents sat my brother and me down at our dining room table. “We’re getting a divorce,” my dad said. “That means we won’t be living together anymore.”
My dad held us and cried. “I’m going to miss you so much,” he said. The next day he left.
My mother says she was never happy in that house. She said it was haunted and dark inside, and that she was glad when she sold it. But I remember it differently. That’s where I remember being happy.
About the Author: Mira Martin-Parker earned an MFA in creative writing at San Francisco State University. Her work has appeared in various publications, including The Istanbul Literary Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Mythium, and Zyzzyva. Her collection of short stories, The Carpet Merchant’s Daughter, won the 2013 Five [Quarterly] e-chapbook competition.