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COMMERCE AND GHOSTS

I cannot promise this, but I believe possibly the first thing I ever wrote that truly came from the heart was on the sale of my childhood home, when I was 18. 

I still have it, because my father later found it and made copies and sent them to all my family. Remembering this still makes a tightness of shame appear somewhere in my chest. Partly because it’s no Tolstoy. But mostly because it felt deeply personal and raw and our family does not make a habit of over-sharing.

Looking at the essay now, I wish it were devoid of cliché and that my font choice had not been Comic Sans. (Hindsight is 20:20.) But it captures something of how I truly felt at the time – the abomination of my home being subjected to the criticism and judgment of strangers, the loss of memories in physical form, the relentless march of capitalism. And I read it with tears, because it was a smokescreen for what was really going on, as my parents downsized to make life easier while my mother suffered from terminal cancer. I did not know it at the time, but less than a year later she would be gone. I would give a thousand childhood homes to have her back.

This quarter, our theme has been “FOR SALE”. I don’t know what I was expecting, but to be honest the theme initially felt very prosaic to me. Commerce is hardly romantic, but our authors have reminded me how deeply this simple concept resonates. How ordinary a transaction can be – and yet how much it reveals of us, in all our human qualities, peculiarities and failings.

It wasn’t an empty house, not really,” writes Shelly Blankman who, like me, Marie Peebles, Claire Massey and Evan Miller, faces ghosts in homes gone by.

Catherine Gonick shares with us her first purchase (“I sat behind them, lost in the landscape I saw on my finger“), while Laura Grace Weldon carries out her last errand of the day (“to smile as we restore sweetness back“).

Robin Dellabough, Carrie Lee South, and Shoshauna Shy sell more than just things – while David Patrick Gallaghergoes to the thrift store for secrets“, and Tahoora I. Palla and Noelle Schwarzenberg transfer control to a new majority stakeholder.

As an editorial team, we are grateful to everyone who has participated in this issue of Halfway Down the Stairs – we couldn’t do it without you. Our next issue will be published in June 2021, and will be themed “LOVE AND WAR”. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for it.

 


Alison Stedman is a fiction editor at Halfway Down the Stairs.

© 2021, Alison Stedman

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