Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Essay: There Is a Stranger Living in My House

There is a stranger living in my house. He arrived at some point in the last year. I’m mostly used to him now, but sometimes I realize that he stole my baby from me.

I don’t recognize him at all. But it seems like our entire family has agreed to pretend he belongs to us, so I play along.

Often I become momentarily disoriented when I hear his unfamiliar voice, this unnecessarily deep baritone, coming from the next room. I get this jolt of panic - “Holy crap, call 911. Some man is in my house!” - before I realize that it’s the stranger’s voice. On occasion, he’ll approach me and ask me for something – typically along the lines of “Where is the butter?” – and it’ll take me a few seconds to respond because I forget about this stranger’s residence in our lives. (I should note that he’s not often patient with my delayed responses, and often prods me, “Helloooo??? I asked where the butter is. Is anybody home in there?” He says it with what I take to be affection, so I tend to laugh it off.)

He insists on joining us for dinner every night, and we don’t mind because he’s fairly amusing and quirky-sweet, even though he often pretends to be obnoxious and hyper-critical. We know it’s just an act he puts on to entertain us. Oddly enough, by some tacit agreement, the other two, familiar members of my family and I all treat this stranger with an extra dose of patient tolerance. It’s like he’s a kitten, and so we expect and allow for a certain amount of typically unacceptable behavior, like being surly for no apparent reason or locking the bathroom door when he brushes his teeth.

I keep expecting my husband to say to me something about this stranger presence in our lives, but he doesn’t. And he doesn’t. And he doesn’t.

I keep expecting my husband to ask where our baby went, our funny little boy who loved music and dancing. Our voracious reader. Our unstoppable scientist. The cute boy who insisted on hollering to us at the top of his lungs one final “I LOVE YOU,DAD!!!” or “I LOVE YOU, MOM!!!” as we closed his bedroom door at night. But my husband doesn’t ask where our baby went. And he doesn’t ask. And he doesn’t ask.

Surely, my daughter must miss her eager playmate, the boy who spent hours playing fantasy games with her. The guy who begged, “You wanna play a game of toys with me?” I would think she would be resentful of the stranger, who inundates her with eye rolls and mocking and shouts of, “Stop bothering me!” and “Why can’t you shut up already?” and “I said, go awaaaaay!” For some reason, she doesn’t seem much put out by his actions, but I certainly am. I don’t care who this stranger is, I won’t let him talk to a member of my family like that.

Truth is, I’ve come to love the stranger. Though he’s taller than me, I can tell he still has a lot of growing to do. But even so, he seems like a good guy. I only wish he would let me kiss his forehead. In fact, the only way I can get in the rare hug is to tackle him and hold him down, which I must admit I do on occasion when I can’t contain my affection any longer.

I guess he can stay around. Heck, it pretty much feels like he’s part of the family.

I just wonder where my little boy went.


  1. Very sweet and wry, my dear.

  2. Sounds just like my house, only I am fortunate that my stranger still likes to have his forehead kissed. But not at football practice.