Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Knee High By The 4th Of July

There's an old country saying that corn should be "knee high by the 4th of July". That appears to be the truth back here in our old neighborhood. Today, as if on cue, mother nature churned out thick Pennsylvania mist like a fog machine at a Def Leppard concert while Henry and I took our first official walk around the old 'hood. The dewy cornstalks shimmered in the afternoon sunlight making them appear as if some kind of magical fairy flew overhead and doused the whole field with glitter.

We made this same circuit around our valley last year before the fire on most days the weather allowed. It's about as grand a walk as one will find in the world. Yeah, a beach is great, and so are the mountains but walking through a green valley, past enormous Amish gardens, horses, and cornfields stretching to the horizon never gets old. It's big, wide open sky, rolling green hills and animals everywhere. Chickens and pigs and dogs and birds and horses. We say hello to these fine fellows who trot to the fence to greet us each time we pass:

I can't believe we're back. From being my unrelenting, unhappy existence the past six months now feels hazy, like waking up after a nightmare. Did it all really happen? It did. But it's over now.

Now that the hard part is over, the move is complete and we're getting settled again, it's the little things that are blowing my mind. This morning I took a proper bath for the first time this year. The tub at our old house made that virtually impossible. You'd get an inch of water in the bottom and the hot would be gone. Nothing worse than trying to shave your legs with goose bumps the size of marbles jutting from your skin.

Oh! I don't have to step out of the kitchen and into another room to wash my dishes or get a drink or wet a wash rag to wipe off the kitchen table. The house we rented after the fire was so old the sink was around the corner from the kitchen. You don't realize how much sink work you do in a kitchen until there isn't one there and you're missing it desperately. And there were no counters. None. We had to set up a kind of makeshift island we used to prepare food. Now I have counters that before I took for granite (heh heh heh) and here they are so damn luxurious, stretching all around the room just begging for a toaster here or for me to chop up some vegetables there. Oh! Oh! And not only is my sink in the same room as my kitchen but I have a dishwasher which I keep forgetting about. I'll do a whole sink of dishes before I remember I've got a dishwasher.

I was worried about feeling weird here after the fire but it doesn't feel creepy at all. It feels like home. The other house was so old and so unsafe for kids (old wiring, no screens in any windows, steep hardwood stairs, no fence) that this house is like a dream. I've been floating through the past week just tripping out on the craziness of it all. Who moves into the same house at the exact same time of year two years in a row? It was almost exactly this date last year that we left Utah for Pennsylvania.

I feel like I've turned a corner, like I can a breathe a sigh of relief and move forward after the whole Life, Interrupted scenario the house fire brought down upon us. Maybe now that I'm finally relaxing and letting go I can begin to process what I've just been through, what we've been through, and attempt to learn from it and get better.

While living at the other house I was frozen, just trying to survive. Anxiety attacks, depression, the whole nine. I was in survival mode, like I was dangling from the edge of a building, holding on as tightly as I could, waiting for help to arrive except no help was coming. That existence was just my new life. One minute you live in the house of your dreams and the next minute it's all over and you're stuck in some strange house in a strange town that's miles away from anything you've grown accustomed to and that's where you live now. And now, just as quickly as we landed in that other house, we're back in our home.

Here we are. I just can't believe it, from nightmare to dream.

Reader Comments (19)

A huge congrats to you and your family. I'm so happy for you all. I do think that part of what you've been experiencing is "situational depression" - your situation was devastating, and, like most people would, you became depressed. I've had many times in my life like this. Where one thing makes the world right (or at least bearable) again, and then, little by little, your entire outlook shifts. All this to say that I'm so glad that you've had this opportunity to feel the light again. And may it just keep getting better and better. You deserve it!

June 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterT.J.

So happy for you and so delighted that things are looking up. Enjoy!

June 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

I'm so happy for you. Maybe you're turning the corner into a beautiful new future. I hope you post some pics of the new/old house.

June 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJane

boy...just reading about your experience is like taking an antianxiety drug. for some reason I have been living on the edge of my seat since moving to florida...this temporary unhome-like experience which makes me feel like, well, transient. Twice I have come back to New Jersey ( here right now as a matter of fact) and I am constantly wondering WHERE I am supposed to go...what to do. Praying about living in the moment and simply enjoying each day ( any day above ground is a good day sort of existence) and then I read your post here and come to realize that there really was a "suddenly" moment, something you just never expected to happen which changed everything and then another one which brought you back into something quite dazzling...something BETTER than before. My point, that you never really know what's coming down the pike and that somehow, we hope and believe that everything is gonna be alright, when in hindsight, I wish I could have that same reassurance when we are going through the thick of mean the fire. Happy for you and your beautiful family. Thrilled that things are indeed okay. Better than okay. Congratulations and thanks for sharing! :)

June 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergina

Hey Gina, I really appreciate this thought and all your other comments too! Sometimes, when you haven't commented in a while I get to wondering if you're all right, so I'm always happy to hear from you. Thank you!

June 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho


I'm truly rapt for you guys! You, Serge and the kiddlies deserve oodles of joy, health, love and safety (and THEN some).

I'm sorry you've been going through shit since the fire but I have faith that you will find peace and contentment after the hell you guys have been through, and it looks like you're absolutely on your way. Kickass! (And you keep KICKING ass...onwards and upwards!) xx

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June 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterchinesegirlfind

#1. Congrats on moving to new/old house. May you be extremely happy there.

#2. Your children are to-die-for gorgeous.

#3. Perhaps part of the friction, or whatever you would like to call it, between you and Serge may have to do with too much togetherness. I imagine you are both home ALL THE TIME... and speaking personally, that was just way too much for my husband and myself. Best wishes for your relationship.

June 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGiGi

How fantastic that you guys are back where you want to be and that you are able to feel less stressed and anxious. I have no doubt that everything - but especially your marital relationship - will benefit from being in much happier circumstances once more. Am I right in thinking that this house is a rental? Is there a chance you might be able to buy it at any stage? Not that there is anything at all wrong with renting - and the place does sound really lovely - but if you don't own it, isn't there a good chance you might have to leave it in the not-too-distant future?

June 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline

So happy for your and your family to be back in the place that you all loved so much. Going through rough times some times makes the good times feel so much better. I it will be that way for you!! I did love those screen doors at the old house though:)

June 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkacy

Monica, this post was a joy to read. Much good luck, good health, good times, etc. to you and your family from here on in....and I"m in total agreement with what Caroline has written.

June 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarole

@Caroline - Thanks for the kind words... And yes, the plan is to purchase the house. The landlord is on board with that plan which is why she allowed me to play such a huge role in the repairs. I basically got to redesign the rooms that burned and pick paint colors, flooring etc. It's been unreal.

June 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho

That is WONDERFUL! So you get to design a house before you buy it, what could be nicer? That is great news, I hope it all goes to plan. In the meanwhile, you get your lovely house back and get to have a bath from time to time (yes, it IS the little things!).

June 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline

Oh man, this was so great to read. I've been through a similar "situational depression" and it really is amazing how much better it feels to see beautiful, green hills and feel like you're home again. I can't tell you how thrilled I am to see a loving family find their way through such dark time and back into the light. I really love when good things happens to good people. Hooray!

June 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaty E.

Great great news. Good things do happen to good people. And how awesome that you get to put your own stamp on the place from the off. Like designing it the way you would have always wanted it. And it will feel old and also new. All fresh and clean. It gives me hope that things can work out even at your bleakest. I wish you all many happy years in your old/new home xx

June 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCrummy mummy

P.S. Can't wait to see pictures!

June 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarole

I'm so happy for you! what a great cool even if you had to made this circle, best regards.

June 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteranajo

As a long-time reader, I am so happy for you and your family!

June 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterash

This is a very happy ending to the ups and downs of your last few months.
And I have to say, I envy you your nice landlord who got straight into rebuilding the house for you!
Best wishes to all of you.

June 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCathlene

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