a small, bright kitchen dining room with a small wooden table and four chairs


When I was in high school, I had a friend whose family home was just a few blocks from mine. Three generations of their family had lived there, which, to me, was wild. Nobody in my family had lived in the same house (or even on the same land) as their parents. I remember meeting my friend’s mum and dad, and thinking it must have been very cool for them to have lived in the mum’s childhood home, with her father.

It was a super small little house, too. Like, I think it had maybe one bedroom upstairs, and a small living room, a dining room just big enough for the table and chairs, a wee kitchen, and then this basement that I think is where my friend’s family lived while granddad lived upstairs? I don’t remember how it worked. I remember the basement had a rumpus room and a tiny bathroom and a work room that doubled as the laundry room.


The first time I went to the house, my friend showed us all around, and I remember going down in the basement (where my friend had taken the rumpus room as their room) and thinking how awesome it would be to have a whole basement pretty much to yourself. At our house…wait. We need context.

*wavy remembery lines*

Waaaay back in the 1980s, the provincial government offered homeowners grants to renovate their homes. Most folks bought hot tubs and built pools (according to my father), but my folks decided they’d gut the suite in our basement (there’s a basement walkout that had had renters in it when my parents first bought the house) and fix it up with a big rumpus room, a spare bedroom, a wet bar, and a big work room for my father. It was exciting! Dad and a neighbour moved the stairs, tore out walls, capped off plumbing, and rewired the whole place.* Dreams being what they are, and reality getting in the way, my father wasn’t able to do the finishing work on the basement, so half of it is framed in and drywalled, and the rest is just this big, open space with a lot of potential.

So the draw of having a *whole basement* to yourself had a weird draw for me.

My friend’s ‘room’ wasn’t especially big (it was probably not much bigger than my bedroom), but there was a TV and a phone and a foldaway bed/Chesterfield…it seemed magical to me. We walked by the work room, and my friend ducked inside and invited us in.

carving tools and a saw hanging on a board above a work bench
Photo by Philip Swinburn on Unsplash

I remember standing in the darkened hallway and looking in and just…I don’t know how to describe this. I wan’t wanted in that workroom. My friend had just invited me in; their folks had said we could take a tour of the whole house, and had even invited us to look through their bedroom upstairs (weird, but what did I know?). All that was fine, but I just knew I wasn’t wanted in that workroom. I stood out in the hall and listened to my friend talk about their plans to turn it into a little guest room, and I was intrigued.

How the hell could anyone sleep in there? It had a small window, seemed dry and comfortable enough, but…did they not feel that? Like when your gran tells you not to go mucking about in her ‘junk cupboard’ because even though it’s a mess she knows where everything is, or when your father tells you to stay the hell out of the shop because you never put the tools back where they go. So I pretended I needed to use the loo and waited until they were out of the work room, then I joined them as they went back upstairs.

a small, bright kitchen dining room with a small wooden table and four chairsMy friend’s mum invited us to sit down for some iced tea and cookies, and I had the *same feeling*. The chair at the back of the table was off limits. It was a perfectly fine chair, that faced the kitchen. It wasn’t the head of the table or anything like that, but as soon as we were invited to sit, it was like something in my brain just noped. NOPE. Again I wondered how my friends could just sit there at the table and not feel the same thing. I didn’t say anything. I figured I was just having a weird day.

Instead, I followed the dog into the living room. It went to sit under the piano bench. There was a loveseat with a sleeping bag on it on one wall, an easy chair on the other wall, and a folding chair near the dining room. I plunked myself down on the floor near the piano, with my iced tea and cookies on the coffee table. My friend’s mum came in to ask if I was okay.

“Sure,” I said, and thanked her for the snacks.

“You got something against furniture?” she asked.

I laughed. “No,” I said. “But I can’t sit in that easy chair.”

She glanced from me to the easy chair, to the loveseat, to a folding chair, and back to me. “You want me to move all this shit off the couch?” She asked. “You could just put it on the floor, you know.”

“Oh, that’s okay! I also wanted to pet the dog,” I said, shaking my head. The dog that was literally cowering as far away as it could get from me.

a bright, sunny living room with a full wall of south facing windowsGood thinking. Quick cover. Brilliant.

She had a funny look on her face, and she went back into the dining room/kitchen where all the other folks were hanging out. When we went to leave, I thanked my friend and apologised for weirding out their mom.

“What do you mean?” my friend asked.

I mentioned the interaction I’d had with their mum. My friend thought for a moment and then asked why I couldn’t sit in the chair.

I said, “I dunno. I just wasn’t wanted to.” I shrugged. “I can’t explain it, but that chair, and the one in the kitchen by the cupboard, and the workbench…I don’t think anyone’s supposed to be there.”

My friend nodded like they knew EXACTLY what I was talking about.

“Those were my granddad’s places,” my friend said. “His favourite chair in the living room and dining room, and the workroom was his. He didn’t like anyone else in his space.”

I don’t know if places have memories, or if ghosts care enough about their before-lives to continue to be territorial, but all I can tell you is that I have rarely had a stronger…it wasn’t even a “feeling”. It was like a knowing. Like the idea that I wasn’t to be in those spaces was just plopped down into my brain.

That’s how I feel now. Not in my childhood home, which always feels like some version of “home”, but in the whole area. The city, the region. All of it. I’m just not…I’m not supposed to be here. This time, I don’t think it’s my friend’s dead granddad trying to be persnickety from beyond the grave; it’s likely a combination of my own experiences and memories, and struggling with letting go of all of that. It was just strange when, last night, I went for a drive (which usually kicks me out of the grumps pretty fast) and I just had this overwhelming feeling that I wasn’t meant to be *here*. In this area.


Can’t explain it.

*As an aside, whenever I go back to my childhood home I am in absolute apoplexy with greed over how many gorram power outlets there are. There are, like, two outlets on every wall. EVERY. DAMNED. WALL. We live in a 125 year old house, and have four power outlets in our ENTIRE UPSTAIRS (three bedrooms and a bathroom). We have 21 power outlets IN THE WHOLE HOUSE. So. Whatever. I have power envy.



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2 responses to “Displacement”

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Avatar

    I can sort of understand the feeling – curious to know what you’re going to do about it, if anything.

    You said ‘childhood home.’ I assume you don’t live thee any more?

    1. cenobyte Avatar

      I haven’t lived here since I was seventeen. We’ve been slowly getting it ready to sell over the past year. The house is listed, and I’m just clearing out the last few remnants of furniture we’ve been kind of sitting on because it’s nice to have somewhere to sleep when we’re here.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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