Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Tour of Homes, Part 2

The Fairy Tale House


This house always looked like the three bears or Goldilocks should live in it. This is the house where my memories start kicking in. The good and the bad.

My first really clear memory is a bad one - at least it is now. I suppose at the time I got some kind of perverse pleasure out of it, but geez, I was only 7 or 8. The same age as my son is now. I was already at my personal limit on brothers, and the ones I had were SO annoying. The next one down, John, must have pissed me off mightily because I rammed his heel with a wooden cart and split the thing wide open. I have no idea what he might have done, but then I never was known for my patience or my ability to cap off my anger until I was MUCH older.

This is the first neighborhood where I actually had a gang of friends. And we were ALL ages. Some were this close to being teenagers, and served as surrogate big sisters. Some were my age and some were younger. There were two Judys: Judy H., who had a kooky older mother and a gigantic family (she was the baby), and Judy S. , who was a middle child between a gorgeous older sister and twin brats. Throw my mom, who is also named Judy into the mix and you get a lot of confusion when the name "Judy" got called out over the neighborhood. Jenny was our younger girl who loved stuffed animals, Kelly B. lived across the street with her younger brother "Brat" and wore orthopedic saddle shoes and had really curly red hair.

We used to play together at twilight, which was when the streetsweepers would make their way to our street and we'd gather to watch the "giant yellow dog" eating the garbage and the leaves. Our sweeper looked like this one, but it was yellow and had a picture of a dog on the side - hence the nickname. We also played in the wake of the fogger truck, which sprayed for mosquitoes every couple of weeks. That might explain a lot actually....

There were neighborhood moms too. My mom and her best friend Dorothy are the only moms left. Judy H.'s mom died of cancer while we were still teenagers. Judy S.'s mom also died of cancer while I was living in Oklahoma. I used to write to her when she was sick. The neighborhood was that close.

I wish I knew where they were now. I know that Judy S. lost part of her arm to melanoma, and that she had a baby just before her mom died. I don't know what happened to Judy H. I think Dorothy might know where Jenny is. Kelly B.'s parents got a divorce and moved out of the neighborhood. Don't know what happened to her either. Sad isn't it? And I wonder - would we have anything in common anymore other than those carefree days of youth? Before mothers died, before we moved away and started having lives of our own....

My mother took up painting when we lived here. She used to set her easel up on the screened side porch and paint fruit or copy pictures from magazines or pictures of us. And NUDES! That used to crack us up, but hey, we were 7. Most people carry a scent memory of their mothers - lavender, roses, clorox... mine is turpentine. When they lived in the house on Lasswade, one of my brothers and I found her paintings in the attic. The mildew had gotten to some of them and it made me sad. I would have liked to have a couple of her paintings, whether she thought they were any good or not, just because they were hers and because I actually have memories of her painting.

The first country club in the city was a block away from us. Almost every evening our whole family would go for a walk on the golf course. It was huge and I imagine the walk took an hour or so. Sometimes it was just Dad and us kids, giving my mother a much-needed sanity break, I'm sure. My grandmother moved to Canada while we lived there, giving us her cat, who took one look at all the kids and bolted. Miss Kitty took up residence with an elderly neighbor, but joined us nightly on our walks around the golf course.

Cats played a huge part in our life there. Lady Cat was a beautiful white short-hair that looked JUST LIKE the cat on the catfood cans. Her most memorable act was having kittens in my bed in the middle of the night. I woke up to a bed-full of blood and mewing little bodies. Awful and wonderful all at the same time. And Lady Cat looked SO pleased with herself.

We had our first tree house here too. So high up in the air! It was a little frightening to be up that high - and there were no railings. We shared the tree house with Goldie, a huge banana spider who'd spun a web just off the side. If we found bugs, we'd put them in her web and watch her wrap them up. I went back when I was in high school and the tree house was still there - at least I think it was the same one. It was only chest high on me. Perspective, I suppose, made all the difference. When you're that short, chest-high on an adult must seem VERY high indeed.

I was also mostly cured of my oral fixation while living here. All my life I'd been swallowing things I shouldn't have. Money. Cans of Ajax. Teeth. Pretty much, if it fit in my mouth, I'd swallow it. Ironic that I always had a hard time swallowing pills.... I was a fixture at the emergency room, and I'm sure somewhere there's a huge collection of x-rays of my stomach. I might even be in a medical book somewhere. But the cure was a vial of ammonia. You know, the kind you break and wave under someone's nose when they've fainted? Well, we were playing doctor and that was the thermometer. Only in our "doctor's office" you swing on the swingset and your brother throws balls at you to kick back while you're taking your temperature. Except one of the balls missed my feet and hit me in the face. Crunch. Between the glass and the ammonia burns, my mouth was a mess for a while. And I stopped sticking things in my mouth that didn't belong there - at least until I took up smoking. But I've stopped that too, now. Two years and counting.

Funny the things you start remembering...

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