Monday, September 27, 2010
This is a house.
It might not look like much. Just a bunch of bricks stuck together with mortar; a few windows inserted here and there, and a roof put on top.
But inside, oh inside it was filled to the rafters with love.
It is the house that built me.
I lived in this house from the time I was brought home from the hospital at a week old, till I left it to be a 19-year-old bride.
But I continued to visit this house often.
It really wasn’t much to speak of - it was a pretty humble abode. The first level had two bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, and living room (or “front room” as we called it in our neighborhood.) Upstairs were two more bedrooms and a half bath. The basement was the size of the entire house.
All six of us kids grew up here, although my older siblings might remember living in a previous house for a little bit.
I have so many happy memories of this house. For example:
The Front Room:
This room had a big picture window and each year we placed our beloved Christmas tree in front of it. We always had a fresh tree. Think of the old-fashioned tree stands that were so hard to hold the big tree tight….my Dad put two screw hooks in the walls and ran wire from them to the tree to hold it straight and steady! He put those big Christmas bulbs around the picture window. We had these ugly tinfoil wreaths that we hung in the two small windows on either side of the large window.
Off of the front room was a tiny foyer and closet. Our mailbox was built into the closet. We had to reach way up into the shoot to get our mail. It always seemed so mysterious to me as a child.
Two gold chairs perched on either side of the window and my parents sat in them and watched out the window for our arrival.
My mother told me a story of when my twin sister and I were just babies. She had our two cribs in the room. Someone came over to see us. It was quite a big deal back then to have twins! We had just woken up from a nap and the whole room wreaked of poop! She was so embarrassed!
Later on, when most of us kids were grown and gone, my parents turned the bedroom into a TV room. It was small and cozy. It was a great place to curl up for a nap.
My mother was always cooking or baking. In fact, she baked something every day until she got a paying job when we, the youngest (twins), were in high school. She would make home made bread, knead the dough, put it in bowls to rise, punch it down, let it rise again, then put it in loaf pans. She’d make 4 or 5 loaves of bread. Nothing smelled better than home made bread! She’d also make home made ravioli - 200-300 squares!
Our kitchen wasn’t that big, but we’d all crowd around the table. If we didn’t fit, we’d put chairs up in the TV room. That’s all I know, we’d always get good food. Roast Beef, Spaghetti and meatballs, fried chicken, everything was delicious! My Mom was THE BEST COOK!
We didn’t get a dishwasher till I think all of us kids were out of the house. So my sisters and I took turns washing and or drying the dishes with the radio blasting the latest tunes.
Even though we only had one full bath, somehow we all were able to get ready in the morning. Granted, we probably didn’t take showers as frequently as kids do today. (I honestly can’t remember.)
I DO remember my Mom telling me how I would be in the bathroom taking a long time and my brother Bob yelling at me to hurry up and get out. It turns out that I would be cleaning the bathroom instead of just getting ready and then leaving! My mom was happy but my brother surely wasn’t!
So many nights and weekends were spent sitting and talking on the back porch. My parents had a glider, so we would take turns sitting on it and rocking back and forth. If our babies were toddlers, we’d block the steps going down and the kids could wander on the porch without any worries. One time when my nephew Ryan was about 9 months old, we put him in the baby swing that my dad had made. It was hanging from a chain from the “T” clothes post. My sister was tired of pushing him and wanted to come back up to the porch where all the gossip was happening. So one of us suggested, (I honestly think it was me) to tie a long rope on the baby swing and bring it up to the porch. Then while we were rocking on the glider, we could pull Ryan, too. So that’s what we did. And talked. And laughed. Unfortunately we weren’t paying any attention to Ryan. My father walked out of the house, took one look at the situation, yelled, “Jesus Christ! The baby!” and ran down the stairs to rescue Ryan. Ryan was very big for his age. He had fallen asleep and fallen forward in the swing. Well, that made it a little top heavy, okay a LOT top heavy, so that he was dragging his hands back and forth in the dirt as we were pulling the swing. He was sound asleep. He was a tow headed kid, but his head was pretty red from all the blood rushing to it! He was no worse for wear! Don’t worry! We laughed our butts off!
My Dad used to sit on the back porch and rock on the glider and sing Italian songs. It would drive my mother crazy because she was embarrassed that the neighbors would hear. I thought it was adorable.
And of course, the back porch is where my twin sister and I were that fateful morning when she decided to take a couple of gulps from her "bubbles" container.
Why didn't I stop her? I guess I was so amazed that she would do it! We were pretty little at the time - maybe 4 years old! We still laugh about it!
The Front Porch
Many a days were spent on the front porch playing games with my friends, or just sitting and watching the cars go by. Sometimes in the evening my parents would come and sit outside.
The basement was my Dad’s domain. It’s true that it held the washer and dryer, and my Mother would only go to that location. The rest of the basement belonged to Dad. It was pretty cluttered, but he seemed to know where everything was located. If you needed something, by golly he would go downstairs and dig around a bit and come back up with exactly what you needed.
Dad was a carpenter for 40 years, so he liked to putz around with making things. Any time he would turn on his jigsaw, the lights in the house would dim, and the screen on the TV would get all snowy. Sometimes it would be at such an interesting part of the movie. You’d just have to laugh.
My father died in 1995. He suffered with non-hodgkin's lymphoma for two years. It was hard to see this proud and kind man suffer. The only thing Mom got rid of were his clothes. Then Mom died in 2000 and us kids were left to deal with the house.
It took us just about six months of going there on weekends to go through everything. It was very cathartic. My brother was in the basement, crying over Dad’s death, even though it had been awhile ago. But going through Dad’s tools, it was hard not to think of him touching them with his large carpenter’s hands. In the meantime, my sisters and I were laughing and crying in the bedroom when we stumbled across a couple of love letters that my mom had written to my dad before they were married. They were so sweet. We also found the original tags that were put in the bassinets at the hospital when my twin sister and I were born. All these years we thought that I was 8 minutes older than Pam. And then we found these tags that stated I was 10 minutes older! Could they be wrong? We are going to have to compare our birth certificates!
I was blessed to have my siblings around me, to share in my grief, but also to share in the love of my wonderful parents who raised us the best they could in good times and bad in the house that built me at 4142 Atlantic Street.
I have not driven past the house since we sold it. I can not bring myself to do it. My sisters tell me of the changes that have been made to the house. But it will always remain the same in my eyes. My childhood home. Filled with love.