Monday, February 4, 2013

Gatsby's Story

The woman on the phone sounded desperate and frustrated. " I can't keep my son's dog any more. He is nine months old and I have already had to take my shelties to the vet's twice because he keeps fighting with them." I was manning the golden retriever hotline and was silent as she went on. "My son was in a car accident and cannot care for his dog anymore so we took him in. My husband spoils him. His name is Zeus. He is sweet but just does not get along with my dogs." She  had tried the Houston rescue but they would not take him.
I knew the rescue would not take him in. They had a strict policy against aggressive dogs. It does not  match with normal breed characteristics for goldens. We had a mouthy golden when  I was a kid until my mom did some training with a professional. I wondered if we could handle him, my husband and I. We had just moved to a large house with acreage and my current golden rescue, Tucker was getting up in years and I wanted another one. The rescue that I volunteered for would never let me adopt because we did not have a fenced yard in the traditional sense. We had the Invisible Fence but they did not think it kept dogs safe enough. I could see that in some neighborhoods but we lived in the country with no neighbors. The dog from Houston seemed like a golden opportunity. My husband had a job coming up in Houston in the next few days so he got the address and said we would just have a look. He came home with a dog that looked more like an Irish Setter than a Golden Retriever. He was papered and his birthday was on Valentine's Day.

The first thing we needed to do was change his name. Zeus, I felt, gave him too much power. Husband named him his favorite book character. Gatsby. It would be nice to report that he and Tucker became instant friends but that just did not happen. There were some snarley fights and bloody ears. Finally they came to an understanding and stopped fighting, except on rare occasions. We also discovered that Gatsby thought cats were for chasing and eating. We had the Invisble Fence put a unit in the house to keep the dogs from going no further than the landing at the top of the stairs. Oh how the cats taunted him.

He WAS unruly, and spoiled. My husband was fond of picking up the squirmy 65 pound fluff ball and hugging him. He was difficult to walk and tried to attack most other dogs. If you ran across the yard, he would try to bite your hands. We sent him to boot camp. The best one in town. He came home with some manners but we obviously did not keep up with them very well. He regressed so we sent him back when we went on our delayed honeymoon.

So the manners thing, well, we just decided to ignore that and made sure that no friends brought their dogs over. We discovered he was great a sticking his heads down holes to catch rats, rabbits and skunks. It was not until I heard him crunching an armadillo shell that I realized that, they too, were hole dwellers to be caught. Safe to say, we never really had a rodent problem.

When I got pregnant, I was worried how he would be around the baby. I really worried that he would attack it like he would a small animal. As I was crossing the lawn on day to answer the phone, he leaped up and bit my hand. It was more like teeth hitting skin but it hurt and I knew I could not stand for that. I clasped my hands together and swung at him, rolling him across the lawn. He looked stunned sitting back on his haunches, From that day on, he never bit at my hands or arms when I ran by him.
The baby came and we did everything the books tell you about introducing a baby to your pet. Tucker liked the baby. Tucker liked to lick the baby. Tucker was ancient. He was 15, could not walk very well, hear very well or see very well. Gatsby was indifferent. He did not have time for this creature who stole his dad's attention from him. Did I mention that husband spoiled Gatsby rotten? Tucker crossed over the Rainbow Bridge soon after Jake was born. Gatsby learned that babies meant food on the floor and likely leftovers.
As Jake grew though, Gatsby mostly still ignored him. I mean, pretended he was not even there, as he ran over him to go outside or get to food. Kiddo took it all in stride. We decided Gatsby was a little too sad and lonely after Tucker's death so we adopted Daisy from the shelter. She was the only dog who did not cower in a corner after meeting Gatsby. They cowered because he tried to dog fight everyone. Daisy, a border collie mix, was quick. She darted out his reach, got in her herding crouch and seemed to say "I am going to figure you out, tough guy." We loved her. She and Gatsby had some tussles but in the end she dominated him. She herded him all over the yard, running backwards to his running forwards. She herded small animals for him to catch. On two separate occasions, those small animals happened to be our cats who had gotten outside. The endings were not good for the kitties and I was glad I was out of town. I was so angry, mostly at Gatsby, because I had seen him go after the cats, mouth wide open on more than once.
So he lived happily guarding his home and people and keeping the yard free of armadillos and stray dogs. I was never as crazy for him as I was for Tucker. He was mostly my husband's dog. When we got divorced, we split up the dogs. I don't think Gatsby was looking longingly across the sound for Daisy's green light but he missed her. She missed bossing him around too. So the dogs went where Jake was, sort of. I only took Gatsby when his dad was traveling. It was hard to keep him away from the cats because the new house is much smaller but we worked it out. He learned the Invisible Fence at the new place too. I think Daisy faked him out, making him think it was a smaller area than it really was, because he stayed close for a long time. We used to joke that he was not bred for his intelligence, or that he must have been inbred and his brain was pinched in his cone head.
I will miss him. I know that we gave him a great life that he might not have gotten. He might have been put down much sooner because of the aggression. I mourn the loss of the kitties he killed but forgave him. He deserved a chance and we gave it to him. We did not take him places where he could hurt other dogs but I wold have liked to have taken him swimming, like I used to take Tucker. My eyes hurt from crying and so do my son's. He went peacefully. Daisy must have said goodbye earlier because she was not very interested in the whole death thing. She was more concerned about us. I think she will be content being the solo dog. Gatsby's ashes will live at his dad's with the ashes of my dog Tucker.
Jake and I decided that now Gatsby is in heaven with Tucker, the horses, Sahil, Bailey and Chai and the kitties, Smudgie, Gracie and Virgie, along with my dead iPod (well it died too, so you figure it out). Perhaps in some great animal heaven comedy, the cats get to chase Gatsby for once, maybe even while riding horses.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A high school friend asked me on Facebook if I would ever see myself getting married again. I had some time to think about the answer. I decided I would like to share my life with someone but they would have to fit in my life. I will not go changing myself again to fit into someone else's life. Another gentleman friend of mine told me that I was too busy to date anyone and that I live to far away to make dating convenient. My thought on that was if someone cared for me enough, it would not be considered an inconvenience but a privilege. I would feel the same. The first friend mentioned how one former classmate seemed to go through men like crazy. She is a beautiful woman and I am not sure what she was like in high school but she seems very nice now and like she deserves to find happiness as much as anyone else. Maybe she just had a run of wrong for her dudes.

I pulled out the yearbook when I got home and looked through it while my son fell asleep. There were some lovely young women in my senior class who were not in the popular clique. In fact it seemed that many in the popular clique were not as attractive as the ones I was seeing and remembering from this class or that. I wonder if they realize how pretty they were then, probably not. I wonder if they are still as lovely now.

I read my senior bio and laughed to see my likes and dislikes are still very similar. Future plans changes from broadcast journalism to photo journalism but I said I wanted to "do what I like, when I like." Boy that is still so true. Maybe I am coming back to being my authentic self. The one who believed that she could do anything, before people started telling her "no" or working on breaking down her self confidence. Sometimes I think my job is like a bad boyfriend who keeps telling you that you are fat and worthless. Nothing you do for him is appreciated or recognized. The job I have been in for 17 years, like a relationship, did not start out bad. Somewhere along the line the communication stopped because it became too difficult to be honest. Need to get to that marriage counselor to save things or get a divorce.

Seeing some of the faces in the yearbook got me thinking about somethings I want to apologize for. Things even beyond high school. The boy who was not ready but I ignored him. I feel bad about that now and it has taken me many years to feel bad about it. I wanted him to ask me to prom and he did not. So when the opportunity arose, I took something from him that he could never get back.

The nice guy who drove an hour for a date and I planned a work thing. He went with me but then I think I was aloof  because I had started dating my ex husband at the same time. I should have been honest rather than rude. I was collecting dates to make myself feel more wanted and powerful.

I will always wonder what happened to the sweet guy who worked at the park where I volunteered. We had so much fun together. We went camping on Assateague Island, horses ate our food and we got eaten alive by mosquitoes but we laughed a lot. I told him I did not want to settle down with any guy at the time when I should have said I wanted to settled with my Ex instead of him. In retrospect, Mike would have been a much better choice, as we had much more in common but I was hung up on appearances.

I am trying to be honest now in personal relationships. It seems to be working well for me. If I can't be honest I hold my tongue. I will have to win the lottery to be honest in my job. It takes some diplomacy. My brand of honesty would seem combative because of the way I have worked the system in the past. I would get fired or promoted. I am not ready to find out just yet.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The house I grew up in-final

We played outside often when I was growing up. My mom would limit TV and kick us outside. The other alternative was to go read, which I did, or practice piano, which I did not.

There were enough kids in the neighborhood for it to be fun. My first best friend lived down the hill and through the woods. Her mom was in my mom's wedding. We used to play in the woods making forts from rotted out trees. A stream ran through the woods and we would catch crayfish, rock hop, trying not to get our shoes wet from falling in. Our motto was "Never trust leaves". Leaves were slippery going down hills. Leaves covered up shallow areas of the stream so you would step on them and end up with wet shoes and socks. Leaves hid rocks and branches perfect for tripping over. NEVER TRUST LEAVES.

The paths through the woods were well worn and never overgrown because we used them so often. Going to her house was great because it was all down hill. Going home at the end of the day was exhausting. Trudging up the steep hill using saplings to pull yourself along seemed to help. Of course if you had a Tupperware or jar full of minnows or crayfish, you could not do that. You simply plodded up the hill, at the top you pushed aside the forsythia bushes that hid the trail entrance and then had to walk up the driveway home.

At the bottom of our driveway was a large rock. About the size of a fat pony, which it what it transformed into many days. Next to the rock was a sour cherry tree. The birds and squirrels got most of the cherries but every once in awhile, you could try them and decide that yes, they were too sour to eat off the tree. About halfway up the hill to the house, there was a sassafras tree with the most perfect U shaped branches for sitting, that is, if you could pull yourself up. The leaves of that tree were fuzzy had a distinctive smell and I still am not sure if I loved it or hated it. Some of the leaves were shaped like mittens. I would think about that as I lay in the grass under that tree. We did not worry about ants or bugs. The grass was soft and easy to walk on.

My father loves to garden and on our almost 2 acres, he had so much to work with. He had a bank of day lilies, mostly orange but some had other colors. I used to pick apart the seed pods when I was bored or pull the dead stalks out and use them as swords or magic wands.
I loved the tall purple phlox he had planted among the azaleas. The tall clumps of flowers seemed so majestic standing proudly among the bushes. Azaleas were fun to play with because the flowers were like ladies' skirts when you turned them upside down. I used to make flower ladies from them and from the hyacinth flowers. Dancing flower ladies at a woodland ball.

I remember picking bouquets of violets and lilies of the valley for my mother. I was so proud to bring her flowers to let her know how much I loved her. She would put them in a tiny vase on the kitchen windowsill.

We also used to dig in the woods, playing archeologist. I am not sure if my father was the influence here or not, because he was always finding things when he was gardening. Old medicine bottles, a broken clay jug that he put back together. We found oyster shells, rusted iron objects like a clawfoot for a tub or an old wall bell. We guessed that our property was the trash dump for the Pot Spring mansion. It was exciting to find these old things. I don't know what became of everything. They might have been tossed in one of my dad's garage cleaning sprees.

The side yard had the rope swing and a swing set. We never went past some old rotting logs that were back in the woods. It seemed to be a natural boundary. The only time we might, was to gather kindling for fires. I carved my initials in the beech tree there. It might have been a heart with another set of initials, like NS + CV. He was a sixth grader that I adored when I as in third grade. On the swing set, we would image the swings were horses and we were galloping away on them. Sometimes maybe we would be the horses, shaking our manes and galloping through the woods.
We made forts by bending and twisting saplings together. We gathered moss for soft areas to sit and slate to have plates and cutting surfaces. We would sweep the leaves aside to make imaginary wall boundaries. We might have been pretending to be families or siblings abandoned in the woods. I am sure we had all sorts of scenarios. We were never about war unless there was a boy playing with us.

On the other side of the house, there was a rarely used patio off the guest room. It has wooden screens for privacy from the street. My dad had created a stone path from the front door to this patio. Part of it was lined with hostas. It seemed like he was always digging them up and dividing them. The hill between the driveway and the house was pretty steep. The area was covered with pachysandra. We lost so many balls in there.
 Past the seldom used patio there used to be a swing set before the swings were on the other side of the house. We used to swing so high and hard that the legs of swing set would lift and bump but never tip. Behind the swing set there was a tallish stump and an animal graveyard. We were always taking in baby squirrels and birds that had fallen from trees. They usually died, but we tried to keep them alive anyway. Hamsters, gerbils, mice, chinchillas all went there. I was afraid to walk about the ground there for fear of stepping on a dead animal and having my feet smush its lifeless little body. It freaked me out. I tried to avoid it when I cut through the yards to go see my other friend who had a  large family. Mary Katherine, Mary Louise, Hector, Ignatious, Edmund, and Mary Margaret, who was my friend. I don't remember her coming over as much as I was over there and she didn't even know about the pet cemetery.

In the Winter, this was the side of the house where we would sled. Usually someone with a saucer would make a great path. then we would pack it hard and fast with our sleds. Sometimes you did not steer and had to hit a tree to stop. There was one large tree just as the path got fast. You could start there or start up higher and slower on the hill.

The back of the house was mostly patios. They were off the living room, dining room and family room. Great areas for entertaining and having family over. They were stepped so the living room patio was higher than the other. Narrow steps led down to the lower more used patio, which seemed protected with a railroad tie wall and an hill beyond. The neighbors could not see you down there. When we bred our golden retriever and she has a litter of seven puppies, that was the perfect place for  them to romp when they big enough too. Imagine the cuteness of seven golden puppies. Her whelping box was later turned into a sand box. I painted out on the patio, made those colored
sandscapes in jars, it was a good place to get messy. We ate steamed crabs back there and cooked out. There was a bench that ran the length of the patio that we sat, stood and used to climb on the bench. When we had a hard rain the patio would become a wading area because the storm drain could not keep up because leaves frequently blocked it.

If you stood on the top of the hill, you would be about level with the balcony off my parent's bedroom and you could see the backyard neighbor's house and their large black dachshunds.  I don't know why we did not play back there very much. Maybe we felt like we were being watched.

My father tried to use what little sun we got through the trees for gardens. There was a terraced section off the back of the garage next to the patio. Sometimes we had vegetables growing there but I do not remember them doing much there. I wonder if we trampled everything so it could not grow. He burned leaves back there too. After reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I decided to try and bake a potato in the ashes like I read in the book. I did not tell my parents but I will tell you, it worked!

I loved growing up in our neighborhood without sidewalks. Playing SPUD and kickball in the cul de sac or driveway. Attempting to ice skate when the driveway froze over. Playing until dark and hearing mom call for you in the distance. Walking home from school and plucking an apple of a neighbor's tree. All of these seem pretty idyllic. I hope my son has fond memories of the place or places he grows up. I am not sure people are a stationary as they were back in the sixties, seventies and eighties. Most of my friends lived in the same house all their lives too. I cannot say the same will happen with my son.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The house I grew up in-Part 4

It seems strange to dedicate a whole post to the bedrooms of my childhood house but since there are many memories there, I guess it is more than just who slept where.

The upstairs was at the top of a longish staircase that had a double railing of heavy wood. The low one was perfect for smaller children and the higher one for adults. From the landing at the top of the stairs, you could see into the dining room on the first floor, living  room and entrance hall o the second floor. It was a great place to yell from when you needed to pass a message along. It was also very convenient to drop the dirty laundry from the landing to the first floor, where it could be taken to the laundry room. There was a door the allowed privacy to the upstairs bedrooms if there was a party below. My parents enjoyed entertaining so this was great to give us some quiet. This door also came in handy at Christmas and Easter time so my parents could do the Santa thing or prevent us from seeing the surprises that waited below.

As a young girl, before my brother was born and a little after, my bedroom was the smallest in the house. It was yellow and next to parent's bedroom. My sisters shared the room next to me. It was a large room with twin beds that slid under bolsters to make them more like couches. The bolster lifted up to hid treasures. Mostly I remember stuffed animals being there. I used to sneak in their room to play. The beds were along intersecting walls and there was a corner table. the end of the bed could slide under the table or not. When it was not, under the table made a great hiding spot. I would take Pinky, a stuffed dog/sheep?, with floppy ears that had soft undersides that were soothing to rub. I still have Pinky but he was never really mine.
There was a closet outside my room that boxes of dolls from the countries my grandfather had visited and Stieff puppets and animals. I guess the Stieff animals were the Beanie babies of the 60's and 70's. You were never supposed to remove the tags and the tags had the animals' names on them.
I remember more about my sisters' room than I do my own. I must have played in there quite a bit.

There was a linen closet next to their room that held crisp white cotton sheets and thin cottons blankets of lavender and yellow. You could get to the attic through this closet. There was another bedroom on the other side of the closet. That would be my sister's room later, then mine as a teen.

The bathroom that we girls shared had two sinks, a laundry hamper built into the vanity, another great hiding place, and large flowers on the medicine cabinets that bookended the vanity. The floor had a random pattern of pink and white tiles. I remember looking for repeating patterns on that floor.

My parents had a large room with a balcony that looked over the back patio. There was a long mirrored wall with a counter where my mom could put on makeup, a sink outside the bathroom where my did could shave while mom was having a shower in the proper bathroom. The ceiling was high and they had a wall unit A/C when the rest of us had to make due with the gigantic ceiling fan in the hall that pulled air in our open windows to cool things somewhat.

My small room had windows that opened up onto the garage room. This was scary at times if you imagined that this would be the entry point of a robber. As I got older, my mother let me have the room painted pink. It was not a mellow pale pink but more the strong pink that was just a shade darker than Pepto Bismol. I think I have a pretty bedspread and curtains. I also remember rearranging my room on a regular basis, by myself, something I must have inherited from my mother. I would sit in my room listening to an Alan Sherman record with a big chunk out of it (I never knew what the first few songs were because of the missing piece), Disney records and any others I could find in my sisters' room.
About this time, my parents had a second telephone line installed in the linen closet. The wire was long enough to stretch to either sister's room. My brother had a room downstairs at this time, lucky boy. My sister would fight over phone use and sometimes it would get ugly.

One sister went to college and there was a room shift. My brother was moved upstairs to the big room. The bolster beds were gone and he had a double bed. I used to stand outside his room and listen to him playing his baseball board game with his imaginary friend Brooksie (he was actually a real friend when my brother was younger but they did not play together much).
My room at this time had a dollhouse. I used to rearange the furniture in there all the time too. I even used to buy dollhouse furniture kits and make them. The attic of the dollhouse was my secret laboratory though. I used to mix "potions" of soap, shampoo, and other things. I am not sure what the goal was but perhaps I should have been a pharmacist.

When the next sister went off to college, I got her room. I loved the built in shelves for my collectables. China animals, novelty candles, my crafts and books filled the shelves. We had the room painted green, bright green and for one wall, I chose a wallpaper with a basket weave pattern and a metallic base. This was my room until I moved out of the house after college.

I remember being locked out of the house after babysitting one night. The dad of the family brought me home and I had no key and no one was home. All the accessible windows were locked too.  I remembered my bedroom window was unlocked but it was on the second floor. The garage with the ladders was locked too. We got a garbage can and flipped it over under my window. I climbed on his shoulders and he climbed onto the garbage can. I opened the window and rolled in. That was the closet I ever came to being in a circus act.

My parents remodeled and my old room became a sitting room off their bedroom. Their once large double closets became a built in dresser with mirrors, the makeup area became a walk in closet and the bathroom was updated, although now I cannot really remember how.

I still have the bedroom furniture my parents had when they got married in the 50's. They used it until they remodeled. It is now my bedroom furniture. I thought I would have updated by now but it is tough to spend money on furniture when what you have works just fine, but may not be the most stylish. It was well build and could use a refinish. I will add that to my list.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The house I grew up in- part 3

There are always things about the house you grew up that stick in your memory. When you are young, you don't really think about a house's functionality or livability. As I look back on my memories of 303 Valleyview Garth, I think that it was a perfect house for a family of six.

The fact that the house was a split level made things interesting for us.We used to practice jumping stairs. You knew you were getting braver when you could jump from the entrance hall over the stairs down to the first floor. We were allowed to use the railings, kid rules.

The double front door opened to the entrance hall. The floor was slate and the was a ceiling light that hung from the exposed beams. My mom broke part of the light practicing her tennis serve. It was a good open space to play with tops, or practice roller skating.

Off the main hall was a coat closet with a mirror. It could be called a power room except it did not have a sink or toilet. The large mirror had a shelf in front of it so people could put purses there and find a compact in their purse. One coat closet was small and used for guests to put coats in. The other closet was larger and had shelves on one side where we kept luggage. When I was sad, I would go into the depths of the closet and cry my eyes out. It was comforting somehow being under the coats that smelled like my family. I would stroke the fur coats and sob. The softness made me feel better. I don't know if my parents ever knew that was my hiding spot when I was sad.

Another door off the entrance hall led to the guest room. There was a full bath in there too. That was handy in a house with four kids but we never realized it until we got older. We did not have central air conditioning growing up. The only A/C was a wall unit in my parents room and central air on the middle floor. On hot summer nights, the kids would take turns sleeping in the guest room. I remember one night I awoke for no particular reason. I heard a man's voice say "I love you, Nell" from outside the closed door. I thought it was dad and went to look. There was no one there. I shrugged and I went back to sleep. The next morning, I asked dad why he came down to say that. He told me he did not come down to tell me he loved me. He had slept through the night. I know  I heard it and strangely enough, I was never afraid to be in that room. When friends came to spend the night, we usually hung out in the guest room in sleeping bags.

The living room was open to the big hall. We had family gatherings there. This piano was in there so we had to practice for our lessons there. All the piano music was in a cabinet wall that looked over into the dining room. We would often yell to each other over the cabinet wall down to the family room. Dad had wired the stereo speakers in these cabinets as well, so whatever was playing downstairs, was playing in the living room. Great for weekends when Dad thought we should be awake and he would blast some uplifting get the heck out of bed music. Luckily I was an early riser.

We had a card table there where we learned to play pinochle and hearts. My parents had Bridge night. We were a big card playing family. It was fun. Many times we would move the furniture and stretch or do gymnastics. Looking back, out gymnastics was pretty close to yoga these days without the breath. We played melodicas that my grandfather bought for us in Germany. I think it was supposed to be a special room just for guests because there were times I think we had to ask for permission to be in there. That seems to be a pretty vague memory because of the amount of time we spent in there.
My first kiss was in that room during a truth or dare game. Entertaining was something my parents always encouraged. They never wold let us have alcohol but many of the parties I had were school related or smaller when we did not thing about drinking. We, meaning me and my friends, I can't speak for my siblings.

My mother was always rearranging the furniture in our house and the living room was probably the room that changed the most. The constant of that room was a glass topped coffee table with really sharp edges. Surprisingly, none of us ever got hurt on it. She also bought the longest most comfortable couch ever! We would also sleep there on hot nights if someone had already taken the guest room. Years later, when Mom bought another couch, she had the super long one cut in half and reupholstered. She moved them to the family room. I eventually too them and they moved to Austin with me. I gave them away eventually.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The house I grew up in: part two

I am not sure how many square feet the house I grew up in had, but the remodel the current owners did, made it a whopping 5,320 sp ft. Zillow also lists the year it was built as 1963. I was born in 1965 so I think maybe that is wrong as well.

The house was modern looking even when we were growing up. Maybe it was all the windows or the exposed beams on the middle level. I liked the details my parents thought of like the radiant heated floors. To me, the heat was most obvious in the laundry room. The dog loved to sleep there in the winter. It was comforting having warm feet when it was cold everywhere else. We did not have radiators or floor vents downstairs.

Downstairs there was also a spare room that went through many incarnations depending on what the family needed at the time. I remember it being and office with a couch that pulled out to a bed, it was a playroom, my brother's room and then an office again. We spent time in there playing with matchbox cars and building blocks, Lincoln Logs and Legos, Barbies too. We had one of those make rubber flower machines that really stunk but the flowers were pretty cool. I am not sure if we were made to stay in that room or if that was just where the toys were so we played there. At one point there was a television in there and during summer, my hour of tv a day was usually The Monkey's reruns and The New Mickey Mouse Club if I could find it on. From this room, you could see the legs of guests as they walked up the walk to the front door. If you got locked out of the house, you tried this window and the laundry room window first to see if someone left it unlocked.

Now before you went up the seven stairs to the mid level, there was the door to the basement. I always felt the basement was the misunderstood area of the house. Never painted or decorated. A sump pump in a dark corner, leaky windows and the occasional stream across the floor added to the scary dampness. There was a small room that my parents had intended as a wine cellar. I don't recall it ever being full but occasionally there were bottles there, certainly not when any of us were teenagers though. Mostly is seemed like a spider hotel in that room. At the bottom of the stairs and underneath we stored Christmas decorations and other decorations. Every year we would go digging around for the Trick or Treat pumpkins.

My mother also had a little area where she stored her art work and art supplies. I loved looking through all of that because I never remember her using any of it and it seemed very personal to me. There were large flat storage areas for her drawings and paintings. The wooden boxes of pastels, charcoal and oil paints were so beautiful to me. On top of a cinder block ledge there were a few other pieces of art, but I remember the odd laying down cow looking one that I think my dad made in school. They still have it at the current home.

We had a ping pong table down there and after my grandmother passed away, the pool table from her house was moved into the basement. A real billiard table with 300 lb slabs under the felt. I played more pool than ping pong and by the time I got to college, I was good enough to play pool at fraternities. The furniture that was stored down there was mid century modern. A blue floral couch with these long triangular pillow for the back of it was the comfy spot. Bertoia chairs with their orange and blue covers disintegrating. A boxy side board with doors that had fallen off held the plastic stereo. Out of date in the late seventies and eighties but super hot right now. I had a plastic potters wheel down there and an art table before I discovered boys.

As I approached the teen years, I painted some of the walls a strange lime green that was left over from my bedroom walls and I tried to make it presentable. We had parties down there. We would shut the door. My parents would open the door. We would turn the stereo up loud and the my parents would shut the door. We snuck beer in through the basement well windows and got caught once. At least I think we got caught....That basement was fun, not decorated enough to be really cool but enough to give us a privacy. Maybe too much privacy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The house I grew up in- part one

My best friend from my teen years and beyond let me know the house I grew up in is up for sale. She mentioned there were some renovations done and the sellers want 1.3 million for the split level on just under 2 acres in Baltimore County.

I started thinking about the house on my way home from work. My parent sold it when I was in my twenties. All the kids were gone and it was a big house for them. I was not sad when they sold it because  I had such good memories of it. Thinking about the house on the drive home tonight made me nostalgic though.

I was born ten days after it was finished. It was the only house I ever knew. It was in the woods so you always thought it was dark earlier than it really was but it was cool in the summer. Here are some things I remember in no particular order.

The roof was slate for many years. We used to climb up on the roof over the garage by standing on a rain barrel and pulling our selves up. Those slate tiles made great table tops in our forest forts. On the roof we would lay out our towels and sun bathe because the garage roof was really the only place that got sun and the neighbors couldn't see you. We also used to have a rope swing on a tree near the garage. If you were feeling daring, you could toss the knotted rope up to the person on the garage and they could swing from the garage. The garage roof was also collector of frisbees and other things we managed to throw up there. My bedroom window opened up to the garage roof for many years when I was little. It was the smallest room in the house but I did not mind. I did climb out the window onto the roof from time to time. I guess that is why when I got older my room was switched to another without an escape route.

The garage could fit two cars, a push mower, a cider press, four bicycles, a wheelbarrow, tools, and other odds and ends. We used the garage door as a tennis partner so there were ball prints all over the door. We also had a basketball net hung from the roof. It was lower than regulation height so everyone loved to play at our house. I think at one point as my brother got older, we put up a regulation height one but it was not as much fun. My parents were Amway distributors when I was growing up so you will never hear me diss Amway. It put me and my brother through private colleges. There was a stocked closet with various products. I liked the convenience of heading to the garage to raid the stock if I needed shampoo or toothpaste. The door from the house to the garage was always sticky growing up. I remember when I was 6 or 7, I was having trouble getting the door open. In my frustration, I yelled "This damn door won't open!" I get sent to bed without supper. My brother snuck me a tangerine. Well maybe I asked him to sneak me one, but I had dinner.

The house was a split level. The back door was really the lower door and it opened to a mud room when the dog stayed when she was wet, or bad or we needed her out of the way. Some years later, our chinchillas lived in a cage there. There was a closet for coats and cubbies for winter gear and sporting goods. The mud room had four doors. One to outside, one to the garage, one to the downstairs office and one to the family room.

Our family room had a wall of built in book shelves. My father's record collection and stereo were on the built ins, along with the World Book encyclopedias, the Child Craft book collection, story books, old year books and the odd decorative item. The built ins had a counter with cabinets underneath that had sliding doors. They were great for hiding in. We used to sit on the counter with our ears up to the stereo speaker listening to the Moody Blues, Peter, Paul and Mary, Jon Baez, Judy Collins or the Pink Panther soundtrack. The doors to the room opened in so we were hidden behind the doors when we sat on the counter. There was an exposed brick wall along one side with a raised brick hearth in front of a fireplace. Another wall was all full length with windows and a sliding glass door that opened onto a patio. This could be pretty creepy when you were home alone. The rest of the room was open to the kitchen so it was a natural gathering place. The dog started to have puppies on the sofa when we were young. It was okay, they were naugahyde, so a quick wipe with a damp rag, cleaned them right up. The younger kids' job growing up was to wipe down the couches. We used to write out names on them with the wet sponge. It made it more fun. The family room was also right under my parents room so during my teen years, I tried to fix up the basement to be the party place. That is a whole other story. We used to do gymnastics in our leotards in the family room until my oldest sister scraped up her leg on the brick hearth, after that, we used the living room. I remember sitting on the floor of the family room playing as firemen ran by  to put out a dryer fire. I remember my mother going to the hospital to have my brother. I think I watched the moon walk from there, I bet on Secretariat (verbal only) with my parent's friends there and came home from school to watch the coverage after Reagan was shot. I played my favorite records for friends there and snuck in to watch my sister's Young Life meetings there.
I learned to cook in the kitchen with light blue formica counters. I made apple pic from scratch when I was in elementary school. My mother taught me how to make meatloaf and cut up a whole chicken (that never quite stuck). We learned how to make our lunch for school when we were in first grade. For twelve years I had PB&J, a piece of fruit and maybe a cookie in my lunch. I was physically shocked by the electric fry pan making something but was convinced for years that someone really grabbed my shoulders and shook me instead of the shock. For my brother's birthday one year, my mom hid the cake in a lower cabinet and the dog got to the cake. We had a long spice cabinet on the top of the island. I loved periodically reorganizing the spiced alphabetically. I would do that without being asked. We had a pantry with bags for onions and potatoes. Fresca and Tab were on the floor. Cereal was were the kids could reach it. Peanut butter was the next shelf up, baking stuff the next higher and liquor and sweets my parents wanted to stash for themselves were on the top. One year my parents bought a side of beef and our freezer in the the kitchen, yes there was a full size freezer, was full of white paper wrapped parts with hard to read type identifying the parts. Jobs were divided up in the kitchen. The younger ones emptied the dishwasher which sometimes meant climbing to put the glasses away. One sister washed the pots and pans and the other did the dishes that went in the dishwasher. We graduated as sisters went off to college. There was a desk by the telephone. Pads of paper with notes from calls my mom had taken and doodles that she had drawn while on the phone remind me of my notes now from meeting at work. Even when the area was remodeled, the desk moved in the room and we added cubbies that collected more stuff than they were useful. The phone remained on the wall with a long cord that could stretch as far as a teenage girl could get it to.
NEXT: Dining room, laundry, spare room and the party basement.