Recently I was given the opportunity to visit my childhood home. We grew up in a tiny shoebox of a house, two bedrooms, five people. Somehow my parents made it all work. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized the sacrifices they made. One being that they had no bedroom to call their own. My sister and I shared a room and my brother had the other. My parents would pull out the hide-a-bed in the family room each night after we went to bed. The drawers in the Early American maple hutch in the dining room held my mom’s clothing as well as the good china. Eventually, I got my brothers room, and he was banished to the basement which was much more suitable for a teenage boy. He was great at drawing comic book characters and used to draw on the walls. My parents let us do just about anything we wanted to in that house. I would write my name in little tiny places only I could ever find. My room was the best part of growing up. I would rearrange furniture weekly which is probably why I do that to this day. I got bored easily and loved to see a new version created in minutes. I would keep my door closed and my father would sit at the dining room table and wait for the big reveal. Both my parents could not believe how much furniture I could fit into that tiny space. I never ran out of ideas for a new floor plan either.
The mailman, Al, bought my mom’s house when she moved in with us. It was comforting to know who bought the house. Al was the nicest guy and thought the world of my mom. He always said she was so respectful. I sent Al a card last Christmas and thanked him for taking care of the house. When in town, I would do a drive by but never felt it was appropriate to knock on the door. He wrote me back a lovely letter and said that he had good and bad news. The good news is that he is retiring and moving to North Carolina, and you can guess the bad news. He said he wished he could take the house with him. He was listing this Spring and said I would be welcome to come visit. I was thrilled. The anticipation of being in that house again was so exciting to me. I couldn’t wait to see my bedroom again. Counting down the days….
I am still coming to terms on how I feel after the visit. I sat in the driveway and was so nervous, and I finally went to the door to the breezeway. The breezeway was my second favorite part of the house. The “room” between the house and garage had a screened door on each end to let the breeze in. I would play for hours in that space and especially loved the rainy days. Cats & Dogs rain was the best. The louder the better. I knew my mom was right on the other side of that wall so I was never scared. Walking in, the breezeway was exactly the same. Still a little worn, but it was always a little worn. Off to a good start. I was giddy. Then I walked into the house and into the kitchen. My heart sank. I guess I anticipated it to be the same as it was. The little kitchen with the yellow formica countertops was no more. The sink where mom stood endlessly washing dishes was moved to the corner with a new design. There was even a dishwasher!!! I never even thought you could fit a dishwasher into that little space. Next, the dining room that was originally done in classic blue and white was now painted a dark color and had a man-cave feel to it. I felt…nothing. But my bedroom was next to visit and I was sure to feel something.
This couldn’t be my room. My entire life growing up room. It was painted in bright red and navy blue and there was an entire wall painted with a hockey player. No no no. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to go. There would be no story to write about. Al was talking away and had no idea of the turmoil in my head. I felt guilty for not feeling any emotion. Until we go to the family room. Nothing had changed. The mauve carpet was still there. The paneled walls with the flickering orange bulb sconces were there. The fireplace and mantel stood as it once did. My eyes welled up and my voice got shaky. It was ok now. Something was the same and it felt wonderful to see it. We ended in the basement which was a partially finished one that my dad was constantly experimenting with. I found the drawing that my brother asked me to look for on the wall and sent him a text. All he said was WOW. It was a rushed visit since Al was getting the house ready to list. I had anticipated that I would just wander through and touch walls and reminse about the past, but it wasn’t to be. The long ride back let me really put everything into perspective. It was a good thing that the house had so many changes. It is not my home any longer and exists in just my mind and heart. I have closure which is a good thing, I think.
Really happy about that mauve carpet though.
Here’s to the sweet memories of my childhood. Of playing kickball and tag on my street until dark. Of hearing mom call for dinner promptly at 5 to get washed up for 6. Here’s to riding bikes for miles to visit grandparents. To walking to school and visiting the penny candy store on the walk home. Here’s to the nuns. I felt I had to mention them. To saying grace before meals. To the family dog who was my best friend. Here’s to the most scenic wintery nights and dad’s hand packed sledding hills in the yard. To swimming in the pool with the tiki torches at nightfall. Here’s to the struggles of high school and trying for a smidge of popularity. To cousins, family parties and picnics at the lake. To great girlfriends of the past who are still present in my life. Here’s to the 60’s and 70’s. Farewell to Roby Avenue.