This is the house I grew up in. It burned up yesterday. The smoke is pouring out of what was once my bedroom. I used to climb out of my bedroom window and sit on the roof over the front porch and watch the people, or watch the stars.
My cousins lived on the right side and two doors down on the left was my best friend Tracey. Across the street is the most beautiful church I’d ever seen. All summer long, the priest would say mass with the doors open. I only got a few glimpses of the inside.
On the right side of the house where it’s melted, in my cousin’s yard was an apple tree. The kids across the alley had a pear tree. We never knew who initiated that first strike, but one afternoon, when the dust settled, the the casualties of the great fruit war were staggering. Boys with bruises and scrapes lay helpless in the yard littered with pears, some rotten. But we knew that the enemy got the worst of it, for our little green apples were sour and hard as rocks, while their pears were soft and delicious. I taught myself how to make apple pies with those apples.
I still have dreams about living in that house. The tiny foyer that also served as a front hall closet. The three tall windows and the stained glass window, and the built in bookcases in the living room.
The dining room had two windows. My brother’s friend and I once rebuilt our dining room table after it collapsed from me sitting on it. It took us an hour to figure out how and what tools to use, but it held up for years and we never got caught.
In the dining room was the stairs to the basement. My baby brother once rode a Big Wheel down those stairs. Also in the dining room was a small hallway that led upstairs. Over the years, that hallway served as playroom, then TV room, and finally library—but I did use it as a photo studio once.
Up the stairs was, of course, my bedroom at one end, and the attic and an unfinished room at the other end. At the top of the stairs, outside of my bedroom door, was a closet where I used to stretch the phone cord and talk into the night.
Through the swinging door in the dining room was a short hallway-esque space. On one side was my brother’s room (sometimes it was the housekeeper’s room) right across from the bathroom. It was a typical bathroom for a house built in the 40’s. Sink with no vanity. Tub with no shower. Bubble glass window. Right outside the bathroom was the laundry chute. Basically a piece of metal duct-work in a wooden box that looked like an outhouse toilet. I once told my cousins that was the way to get to the basement. Then I climbed in and got stuck.
The kitchen was huge, and not a counter in sight. Wait…that’s not true. There was a counter in the pantry. The old fashioned pantry had a counter and drawers and shelves to the ceiling. When we moved we found little bowls of cereal bits on the top shelf. One of our housekeepers made us save the dregs of the cereal boxes to send to poor kids over seas. Yeah…she was special.
A lot of life happened in that kitchen.
Through the kitchen was the enclosed back porch. In the spring, summer, and fall, it was playroom, TV room, and spare bedroom. In the winter, it was the walk-in refrigerator, and sometimes freezer.
The backyard had poles for the clothesline, and a giant maple tree. That yard was huge. The alley beyond the yard was unpaved, but we still managed to play in it all the time.
I was 21 the day we moved out. It was and still is one of the saddest days of my life. I’m glad I took the time to drive all of my kids by that house. At least they got to see the outside.
Bye childhood home. It was fun.