Over at Sue's place, she did a post about looking up her childhood home on google maps.
Sitting there in the dark in a quiet house, I wondered why it had never occurred to me to do that. I remembered the address of my childhood home right away and I looked it up. There it was. It was no longer the green that I remembered. I had watched my uncle and my father pour it and I remember how amazed I was to discover the next day that you could walk on it. Later, when I saw pictures, I was only a curly headed moppet in cloth diapers and those balloon-like rubber pants. Yet I remember that amazement at the hardened cement so very clearly.
Those big steps are gone now, replaced by a neat set of half round steps leading to the entrance way which extends forward from the house. There used to be an old hall tree there to the left of the door, with the big old hooks and the mirror, a lift up seat to hide the mittens, the gloves, the hats. I remember one time that I managed to tip it over. The narrow entrance prevented it from falling completely over. The top of the hall tree was stopped by the opposite wall. Scared me to death though. 60 years later, I walk past a hall tree in my own foyer and sometimes I remember that incident.
The windows are changed out in the front of that house. My parents' room was at the front of the house. My sister and I slept at the back of the house. The bathroom was yellow. The kitchen walls went half way up with that strange stuff that looked like linoleum. Yellow bricks with a black trim. Flowered wallpaper in the living room. The stainless steel legs of the bathroom sink.
I was surprised at all the memories of that house, and I took a moment to 'walk' down the street, to where my childhood friend lived. I turned around and walked the route that I used to walk to my school. All by myself. At five years old. In 1962 parents did this without a second thought. Now I'm a grandma and I wouldn't even consider it. We walked down one street, turned left, walked two blocks, turned right, walked across a big park where there was a fountain. It is not there now. At the end of the park, there was a busy street. We waited for the crossing guard to let us cross.
It was fun to sit in the dark and roam around my old neighborhood, the random memories popping in at each old sight. My friend Stevie lived in this house. Roger over here. The Welch sisters were older and they had Beatles sleepovers in their garage. The neighbors had a rooster that chased us. Our back yard went all the way to the vineyards where my parents picked grapes in the summer to make extra money. My aunt Rosie once paid my sister and me 25 cents to pick some black berries for her. My sister cried because I got 2 dimes and one nickel and she only got a quarter. My mother in her seamed nylons, wearing a hat and white gloves pushing my brother in his stroller as we walked at her side. She carried a straw purse.
I remembered that purse. She gave it to me. It was was like a basket, with a daisies on top. It sat on a shelf in my living room the top slightly opened with a fancy lace trimmed handkerchief spilling out. I lost custody of that. The ending of that marriage was shocking and abrupt. The kids and I returned to what I thought of as home. He had a household sale selling off the things that he perceived as unimportant (like straw purses), and packed up the rest in a van. The house was sold, the boat was sold. I went back to get that truckload of things and left. I wasn't going to live there anymore and he was going to prison.
I sat in the dark thinking back on days that were even darker and even though I shouldn't have, I did.
I typed in another road, and once again, I was 'walking' down that road. The kids were riding ahead on their bikes. We walked every day because I was fat and he was ashamed of me. There was the doll factory, out in the middle of nowhere. It made artisan dolls, the realistic sort you see advertised in magazines these days. I recognized the neighbors' houses, remembered their names, the steep ditches, the muskrats in them. Eventually I came to that driveway. I held my breath a little as I pivoted the picture around.
It looked just the same as it did 25 years ago. Brown, with white trim. The white door that raised up to a two car garage.
I remembered the ceramic tiled floors, the closet when you came in, the stairs to the second floor on your right, the entrance to the living room to your left, and straight down the hall to the kitchen that I had fallen in love with from the first time that I saw it.
I sat there with all those random memories, happy ones. The Christmas tree went in this window. The rock wall we'd built in front of the house was still there. The trees were huge now. I couldn't even see the front porch, but I knew where it was. I loved that house. I honestly expected to live in it forever. I did. I was happy there, and the country was a good place to raise kids. Good schools. A nature center right down the road. Quiet roads for kids on bikes and fat moms on foot.
23 years later, I still wonder about it sometimes. We had everything. We honestly did and yet it was not enough. He worked with professional women. They were skinnier. Educated. Making good money.
Once we were at a company party. One of those women said to me that she'd love to be a stay at home mom, but that they couldn't afford it. I said, "We understand that for this time, we can't afford everything. It's a bit of a sacrifice, but..." and she turned from me in mid sentence and began talking to the person on her other side.
Instantly, I knew three things: that my husband complained about me at work to other women. I knew the life I thought we wanted was not what he wanted. I knew why my husband was dissatisfied. I was not enough. I was not perfect, and I could list my imperfections just as readily as he did.
After all these years, I stared at that house once again. I used the mouse to back away for one last long look, and then I shut down google maps. I left the office and padded through my dark house full of different memories. Not perfect maybe, but happy. I climbed in bed next to my snoring husband.
All these years later, I am still not perfect. I can still list all of my imperfections.
My husband never does.
Though those trips back into memories from long ago fulfil a need they also bring tears about the unhappy times. Is that good? But you are such a good story teller that the trip is worth it.ReplyDelete
You have got a very good memoir book there Debby. My mum and dad called that linoleum Oil Cloth.ReplyDelete
You sure remembered many details, but you wrapped up your post so well with a poignant conclusion.ReplyDelete
It's a balance Thelma. I feel like its a balance. I appreciate what is all the more because of what was. I'm a lucky woman. So very, very lucky.ReplyDelete
Much to my wife's chagrin, I have never really been fond of returning to old houses and most of them no longer exist anyway. For me, the structure has never been that important other than to spark the memories of the life lived inside. But I do occasionally track down the house of an ancestor and sit there imagining a scene on the front porch or the picture they took out front that made it through time to be scanned into my computer.ReplyDelete
Google maps is a rabbit hole that I sometimes jump into. I'm a very curious person and end up looking up homes of everyone I know or knew! :) I don't have the vivid memories that you do of my childhood house; we moved into my parents' current home when I was 10, so that's always been home to me. It's wonderful that you're in a much better place now with a loving and accepting husband.ReplyDelete
I did a google walk around some of the houses that I have lived in - a lot are not longer there or no longer recognisable.ReplyDelete
You have quite vivid childhood memories and in general mostly good memories of your younger years. Nice reading.ReplyDelete
I enjoyed this trip down memory lane with you, Debby. A lovely post.ReplyDelete
You told a remarkable story here. Really, really great, told with so much honest feeling.ReplyDelete
It’s good to remember. But it’s also good to look around and be thankful, as you have done.ReplyDelete