My Old House Has All My Memories
My parents sold our first home when I was 12 years old, although, looking back, when I first heard the news I feel sure I pulled off the perfect tantrum of a colorful six year old. I was furious. I did not care the new house was right near by and I did not care how much bigger and “more exciting” it would be. I swear even as a 12 year old I was asking my parents, “How dumb do you guys think I am? What, 12 year olds have no sentimental value? Huh? They just want big and better?”. Sadly that is too often the exact case and I am definitely not about to claim to be above the shiny new toys and all that jazz, but I wanted to punch my parents for not understanding why I though this was the wrong choice. Why couldn’t they see why the house was too important to let anyone else live in? Loosing battles isn’t usually my thing, but my parents were holding strong on this one. I even took up a battle against the new houses close proximity to the town graveyard—I was laughed at until construction workers found Native American arrowheads and bowls where our basement now lies, I knew my superstitious mother was beginning to catch my drift, but it was too late and the new house was going up.
Looking back I see why my parents were ready to move on from our beat up old house, the house they had purchased when it was just what they could afford and maybe not what would have been best. Now with five kids and the biggest golden retriever you ever met, I can understand the need for more space if more space was in the cards. So all right, now I get it and I’ve moved on. Mostly. Each time I walk past my old house I can’t see it as anything but my memories, mostly my first memories too. Even when I know other people live there, it doesn’t so much bother me as I feel it should bother them. I have this ridiculous idea that my memories in the house on Main Street are stronger and more important than these new people’s memories of the house. There is no one to judge that of course, but my memories in the rooms of that house are in my brain stronger than my memories of yesterday. I grew up in the rooms of that house and saw it as my playground and my safety net.
In the basement I spent too many rainy fall days sitting on our scratchy carpet leaning my back against the couch, watching Harriet the Spy with my friend Molly and requesting my mom to make us some delicious cream cheese and olive sandwiches. I remember on a creepy night in December my sister convincing me to stay up late to watch What Lies Beneath for the first time and even though the boiler room seemed to be humming my name, I agreed because after all if she could handle it so could I. I can still see the top steps of the staircase that my eyes locked onto as my sister grabbed my ankle on our way up to bed after the movie, and I screamed so loudly we wound up falling down the stairs in laughter and of course laughing our asses past my now fed up father perched, huffing and puffing on the staircase waiting for a response.
The kitchen was home to pitchers of lemonade for our lazy day lemonade stands from which we always somehow managed to make bank from. And do you remember making your own popsicles? Did everyone else do that all the time? I can only associate those red and blue plastic popsicle sticks with the kitchen on Main Street. In the kitchen, while my mom prepared the rest of dinner, I remember sneaking the lobsters out of the freezer to hold kitchen lobster races with my brothers (my mom still states she was sure this was a terrible sign of animal cruelty… because, we then of course ate the lobsters.. and can’t believe she allowed it to take place). This was definitely screwed up, but a lot of fun and great way to kill time while the corn is cooking.
Our dining table was of course the place of “family” meals, but really more than that is was where I would force family members, babysitters, guests, any takers really to take me on in a competitive game of Clue. And if it wasn’t clue before bed it was my face a foot away from our hilariously old school television which I do not think I have thought of in years, watching Nick at Nite. I almost feel like the old TV was in black and white, but I feel it was more likely faded colors, and the dial to change the channels looked like a knob I’ve only since seen on vintage radios.
But the best part of this house was the back porch. My mother wasn’t huge on the typical mother stuff when I was growing up, however, my mother had a select few children’s books she read liked to read to us; my personal favorite (coincidentally my mother’s too) was The Sleeping Porch by Karen Ackerman. I really can only remember The Sleeping Porch, Ferdinand the Bull, and The Giving Tree. To be fair to my parents, those are three stellar choices.
In The Sleeping Porch, a big family moves out of their cramped apartment and into a house with a screened in sleeping porch, a dream come to true for everyone in the family. One summer night after the family moves in, a thunderstorm causes the power to go out and horribly enough the roof begins to leak in every room. So, it is the sleeping porch to the rescue. The family ends up having a really nice night sleeping cramped together but dry and out of rain and cooled by the air.
Now, I don’t recall my family and I ever doing anything like this. I may have one time tried to stay out there all night just to be cool like the book, but I am pretty sure that by midnight I headed my scared ass inside the house and locked the door quickly behind me. I can still see myself fumbling around with the lock, never could remember of it turned left or right and it always seemed to turn too many times.
Despite our sleeping porch never amounting to the just so perfect family scenario in the illustrated book, our porch was still pretty great. We had a cool, old wooden picnic table on one side and a chair or two with flowerpots surrounding them opposite the table. There was a forest green narrow, screen door in the middle of the porch that led you down three or four steep steps before planting you on the grass in our nook of a backyard. It was a small yard, but during the summers it looked like a wild overgrown garden and it was kind of great. But back to the porch; the porch was excellent. It is attached the back of the house (unlike in The Sleeping Porch which had a sleeping porch on the side of the house) and therefore was mostly private. Making the screened-in extension of the house feel more like a tree house than a sitting area.
There are a million reasons why our old sleeping porch was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but overall it had so much room for activities.
1. Crafts: coloring, origami, fortune makers, friendship bracelets
2. Lobster Races Round 2
3. Rainy day fort building
4. Corn shucking station
5. Pumpkin carving
6. Tie dying
7. Mosquito-less meals practiccallly outside
8. Easter egg hunts
9. Pirate ship and/or Starfighter
10. Face painting
11. Oyster shucking
12. Staging area
13. Haunted house
14. Egg dying
A few years ago I saw the inside of my old house. It was weird seeing other people’s belongings, things I didn’t like, in “my” house. But it wasn’t so bad once I could too easily recall what it all looked like before and my vivid imagination covered the new with the old. I was sad to open the doors to the porch to see it dusty and unused. Covered in plastic furniture, old fishing rods, dead plants, and dust. And they will never know that at one time their musty screened-in storage unit was once a million and one things, all full of life. I could still see all these things filling the porch and it looked so much better in my memories than it did that day.