Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I grew up in the northeast United States where the weather in one day can be seventy degrees and sunny, thirty and snowing and finally twenty and raining because it’s too cold to snow. It was also where summer heat and winter cold were equally fatal. One finding themselves in the northeast during summer would think “How could it ever be cold here?” while those encountering it during winter were likely to have a similar, yet opposite reaction. I grew up in a place where a hurricane was no big deal unless you were a fisherman and tornadoes and earthquakes were non-existent. A place that got its share of coyotes and skunks, but never rattlesnakes, black widows or scorpions.

My neighborhood was the right place, neither in the “bad” part of town nor the “rich” part, nor the condominium housing sections whose identical houses were reminiscent of a Stepford community. My neighborhood was a complete mix of houses whether they housed college students on their seasonal sabbatical from the real world or the elderly lifers who had nothing, but reality. There were no kids on my street rather just their grandparents, which came in handy during Halloween, for my sister and I, alone reaped the benefits. The no adults gave out neither pennies, nor toothbrushes nor staplers, but rather full-sized candy bars. Thank you, Jebus.

My house at five Linden, was well over one hundred years old and had the type of floating balloon structure that is considered a fire hazard today. The house, originally servant’s quarters for a larger estate had been transformed into a one family residence, then a two, then back to one. The evidence of this was made apparent in the deadbolts on the doors leading to the upper floor. (It occurs to me now, that had my parents been psychopaths, they could have easily locked me and my sister upstairs and torched the house. Thank god, for small favors…and anti depressants.)

It seemed that my house had been made for lead paint and any other type would shed from the clapboards in a year’s time. Lead paint having gone the way of snuff in the public eye, (stupid kids and they’re paint eatin’ habits) my dad was forced to foot the bill of repainting the house almost every year. That is until we got siding, my house lost most of its charm and became what looks like Barbie’s dream house if she had an affinity for neutral colors. The relatively hazardous structure of my house coupled with the new vinyl siding and the fact that we hadn’t had a fire extinguisher in the house for at least two years made me feel like I was living in a powder keg.

We had changed the carpet at least five times within eighteen years: from blue to beige to mauve each of which, I’m sure, one can still find in closets. From there it was beige burber then back to every ones favorite: mint green. Carpets which were meant to never be stomped down, but had flattened in less than a year after their installation. The old counterweight rope windows could not be opened unless the ropes were greased with wax and even then, the most stubborn ones, the ones that were painted shut, refused to budge. There was the “Crayola”-colored carpet which once presided in my room. The one that could have been seen if I ever bothered to clean up or weed my collection of stuff. The carpet looked horrible and came from Building #19, but it was mine and it was there.

I can’t help but long for those functionless windows and pointless doors with deadbolts that kept no one but a sibling playing “Hide and Seek”, out. The impractical wooden clapboards and the horribly uncomfortable not to mention ugly carpet from “Building #19” that lined my bedroom; I felt strangely proud of these things. The dilapidated back porch that I fell off once and which was great to make a sled run on when it snowed - I miss its peeling paint and crossed beam design. I miss all of these things mainly because they’re gone, not because they held any special meaning, but just because they’re gone and have left nothing but maybe a crack in the wall or a piece of photographic evidence that they were there. When thinking about where I lived and coincidentally, where I still live I can’t help but think about and steal a quote from the last episode of “The Wonder Years”:

“Things never turn out exactly the way you planned. Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you’re in diapers, the next you’re gone, but the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place, a house like a lot of houses, a yard like a lot of yards, on a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is, after all these years I still look back in wonder.” (Daniel Stern –“The Wonder Years”)

Now, five years after we moved out of that house, there hasn’t been a night that I don’t dream that I’m right back there. In these dreams I’m always happy to be there. I feel at peace with the world, like nothing bad could happen to me. That I have nothing to worry about because I am there and that’s all that matters. That’s all I’ve ever been trying to get to; back home. Back to where it all started, like if I could go back and live there, I could fix everything. In these dreams that I have, everything is wonderful, but just for a moment, then I realize; Something is off. Something is missing. Usually, it’s that the bulletin board that used to hang in my room has been stripped of its years of clippings or that the backyard is a beach in California or that the upstairs kitchen doesn’t have enough random clutter in it. It doesn’t matter what it is; there’s always some clue that it’s all just a dream and I figure it out. I always figure it out. And in that moment, I hate that I’m so smart, because I just want to be able to stay, but no one can stay home once they figure it out.

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