Today’s prompt was to write about the house I grew up it. Look at me, writing a personal post two days in a row! It was interesting to see what details and memories have stayed with me the most about a house I left almost exactly fifteen years ago. I’ve tried to just record whatever came to mind, regardless of how descriptive or important it seemed.
I grew up in a little brown house with white trim, a pitched roof, double-hung windows, and two dormers in the attic. It was the perfect little gingerbread house – the kind that is pretty much made for hundreds of little white Christmas lights. I guess it was a pretty ordinary house in most ways, but it had some really cool things about it. Like the big kitchen, for example. It had tons and tons of cabinets and drawers, and when I was really little, I used to open all the doors to the low cabinets and the drawers right above them so that I had a whole village of little enclosed areas to play in. There was the swinging door between the kitchen and the dining room, which was lot of fun when I wasn’t accidentally getting hit by it. There was the big brick fireplace with wooden mantle and a stained-glass window on each side. I had very little idea at the time how special it was to live in a house with stained glass, although I definitely remember people talking about it. Unfortunately, the windows were small and high, and I was too short to really see them very well. The sun room off the living room had windows on three sides; that’s where we put the tv and the piano. We used to clear it out every December and put the Christmas tree right in the middle. It was an entire room full of Christmas, with just enough room to squeeze around the side to plug in the tree lights. We had a long staircase with a fancy wood banister. I grew up hearing the story about how, when my parents first bought the house years before I was born, the hand-carved wood was covered with white paint, and they had to painstakingly scrape every inch of it off before re-finishing it.
Upstairs, my bedroom was pink and had sheep on the wallpaper. That’s the way it was when my parents brought me home from the hospital, and that’s how it was when we moved out. I had two nice windows with a view out front, and a small closet. My room was at the end of the tiny upstairs hall. My parents’ room and the spare bedroom-turned-library were on either side of it. The library was very dark, which made up the only library I’ve ever not liked. The bathroom was at the other end along with the door leading to the attic. We had a full, walk-up attic, which was another rarity I didn’t fully appreciate at the time. When I was little, I had a recurring nightmare about vampires coming out of the attic. I didn’t like to open that door or go up the stairs, but I think that was just because of the noise from the whole-house fan we had up there and the fact that there were sometimes mice and squirrels. But we stored the craft supplies in the stairway, so if I wanted to make something, I had to be tough and open the door. I was willing to venture up there with my father once a year to put the Christmas lights in the two dormer windows, but that was about it. It’s funny how so many of my memories from the house involve Christmas. We had a full basement as well. It was unfinished, which is lucky because it one flooded in a storm.
Outside, we had a very-small-but-very-green front yard bisected by a walkway. A few crumbling brick steps led up to the small front stoop with its wrought iron railing. The driveway was narrow in the front but very long. It widened in the back, so our backyard was very small. We had a two-car garage with the same chocolate brown shingles as the house. One side was for the car and the other was for my dad’s woodworking supplies. We had a really nice deck off the kitchen; my father built it himself. It was raised up a few feet, and below it were some wooden planter boxes. I used to stand on them to peer over the privet hedges and see if any of the neighbor kids were home. I fell off once and hit my leg on the way down; there’s still a tiny dent in my shin bone. Then, there was a small-ish rectangle of grass. My parents got some plastic sheeting and pipes one winter and made me a little skating rink there. It was loads of fun until the first snow ruined the ice. Next to the garage were two enormously-tall trees. I christened one of them the “Belly Tree” because it had this weird protrusion that looked like a big fat belly. The Belly Tree had a swing hanging from it, but because all the branches were crooked, it was really easy to accidentally start swinging sideways and crash into the hedges. I wanted a fancy swing set like all the other kids had, but where would we have put it?
The little brown house was in a mid-sized, working-class town. The people in our neighborhood weren’t exactly poor, but they were more likely to be plumbers and electricians than doctors or lawyers. Of course, the socio-economic status of my family and the families of the kids I played with meant nothing to me at the time. Our street was adjacent to one of the town’s main thoroughfares, but our street wasn’t overly busy. There were kids in almost every house, and all you had to do was look over the hedges in any direction, and you could see if anyone was out and wanted to play. We had nice, wide sidewalks to ride bikes on, pickup baseball games and races in the warm weather, and every September, the families on our block used to get a permit from the town to close off the street one Saturday for a block party. Everybody brought something different to eat, and there was lots of games and music all the way from morning till night. There was also a keg, but I only had the slightest idea what that meant. The town had a big street fair with rides and food every summer, too. There were many stores, restaurants, and an ice-cream shop within a short car ride of my house.
To a little kid, nowhere else in the world could be a better place to live, but when I was nine, my parents told me that they were looking for a new house closer to their work. They had lived there for a long time, and now they could afford something bigger – with central air conditioning and without asbestos in the basement. Plus, they said that the neighborhood wasn’t what it used to be. I cried. I pleaded. I tried to reason with them. I threw temper tantrums. Then, the month before my tenth birthday (another Christmas memory, oddly enough), we heard gunshots down the street, and I decided that maybe a big new house wouldn’t be so bad after all. We moved six months later. I’ve never been back, but I heard that the new family put aluminum siding over the brown shingles, and to this day, that still bothers me just a little.