It’s Just a House Part 1

7133 10th Avenue South

Before we finalize the sale, let me walk you through and point out some things you might not have noticed. Neither one of us wants any surprises, and this isn’t just any old house. It’s a velveteen house, a house so well loved it has become real. You’ve already noticed all the things that make this house perfect for a family. That’s why you bought it. No really cool details or secret passageways, just a solid baby-boomer house in a quiet part of town.

As you come up the front sidewalk you can’t really make it out anymore, but this is where I learned, with chalk, to spell Edelweiss. Right in front of the big elm there, you can probably just barely see the spot where Peter Morgan, my future brother-in-law, wiped out on his bike. My mom scooped him up and called his mom. That’s how our families became friends.

Be careful if you decide to till those gardens along the house. When my grandparents owned the house they used to be lined with pink quartz. Those rocks ended up all over after we moved in, but I’m sure there are still some in there. My brother and sisters and I fought over the sparkly ones and wrote on the sidewalks with them, used them as amunition in neighborhood battles and as building materials to dam up the water running down the streets after it rained. My own kids did the same thing.

The lawn isn’t much, but every year when it was time to rake, we’d take a week to do the front yard. The first couple days we’d outline the rooms in our ‘houses’with leaves. That and jumping in the crunchy piles made the job take longer than was strictly necessary. That maple was always too tall for us to climb, but it sure had lots of leaves in the fall. And in the spring we had the helicopters, which if you got them at the right time, right after they fell, you could squeeze until they squirted sweet juice into your mouth.

As long as we’re on the subject of kids and plants, tell your kids that the Johanssens’ Cotoneaster bushes along the driveway have tiny sweet flowers in the spring or early summer. If you bite them,they’re way sweeter than the maple seeds, but you have to watch for ants.

That driveway probably needs to be redone, it used to be black with only two cracks running across it. That was back in the day when my mom parked the Country Squire station wagon there. The one we called the Road Warrior as it started to fall apart. She used that car to chase down Derrick… the towheaded, cross-eyed little delinquent who mugged me on my way to Roith’s Pharmacy. She had him backed up against the retaining wall along the back of the parking lot with that car.

He stopped by once or twice while she was dying to bring flowers. Neon Orange Roses, for crying out loud. She called him VanHalen when he got older and wore that hair long like a rock and roll star.

I’m pretty sure Derrick really came to deliver a little herbal medicinal relief to my brother during my mom’s hospice days. My Brother is always more human when he’s high. I remember when he was young, he actually kicked out one of these panels, here on the front door. It’s this one, here. My mom’s husband Ramon, actually carved this new panel, here, by hand. Can’t even tell it’s new.

This little window on the front door, when my brother would flip out and get violent, I’d get him outside the back door, lock it and RUN to the front door to lock that one. Sometimes we’d get to the door about the same time. My hands were shaking, but this deadbolt, here? Slides nice, like butter. “Schlock.” He’d have his red face and crazy eyes right up to that little window, but he didn’t ever get all the way through until after he had calmed down. This is a solid door.

This front closet, the pencil sharpener was in there on the back wall, it still smells like pencil shavings in here. And there’s graffiti on the wall behind where the coats used to be. When your pencil is so new and sharp, and the wall is so clean and inviting… a coat of Killz will probably take care of it, if you care. It’s colder than the rest of the house, we never hung our coats in here, except maybe in the summer. There were dress coats and snow suits in here along with a basket for mittens and hats. All the slides and home movies were in here from the time I was kid.

Leave your shoes on if you want, this carpet has seen better days. I still think of it as new, but it’s been 15 years or more. Did you notice it has a nice south facing window, there? The sun would come in on Sunday mornings and hit the floor. I remember getting funnies out of the paper and laying on my tummy, on the floor, in that sun. And just driftting off to sleep sometimes, like a cat. My mom crocheted those curtains. They’ve been washed so many times, they’re falling apart. I’d like to take them if it’s OK. It isn’t a big deal, but you know…

My little sister took her first steps here in this room, while my brother and I were on oposite sides of the room trying to convince her to “Come here, Er-Bear! Come see ME! You love ME best!” Poor thing. She learned to walk right here.

We spent so much time here. Years, lives. It was in this room I listened to a new boyfriend honk his horn in the driveway while my mom hissed at me, “Don’t even think about going out there. He can come to the door or he can wait all night.” I guess she could have been replaying what her folks said to her in this very same room, years before. She lived here when she was kid, too.

The Christmas tree was always here in the living room. That corner there works really nice, but if you like the neighbors to see your tree, the picture window is perfect. I sat on the couch at night, when I was a kid, after everyone else was asleep. I’d blur my eyes and look at the Christmas tree lights in the corner, with the snow out that big picture window. I loved that place and that moment, so hard… Kids are funny.

Later, after we inherited the piano, the nativity scene went in that corner on top of it. We weren’t such a religious family, but hiding the baby Jesus around the house became as much a tradition as making silly or obscene phrases out of the NOEL and MERRY CHRISTMAS block letters. My sister will have that piano out of here by next week, I’m sure. All us girls had lessons and practiced right here in this room. I hated to practice. I used to sneak in and move the timer forward when my mom wasn’t paying attention. I couldn’t figure out how to read music. I still can’t.

Jenny got it, though. She’s a piano teacher now. She played this piano for my mom and everyone else while my mom was here dying. It was beautiful and generous. I think it was Beethoven, but I don’t remember. Only that it was majestic and immense and it rained down on these rooms in a way that still makes me cry when I think of it.

It’s that same corner where my mom’s hospital bed was, where she died, too young. It isn’t that far to the bathroom, right out that door, but she only made that trip once or twice after coming home from the hospital. The last time she tried, her legs just gave out under her. My aunt and uncle helped her back up, but she kept saying she wanted to go home and trying to get out of the bed. My God. If this isn’t home, what is?


3 thoughts on “It’s Just a House Part 1

  1. emily says:

    hey, can i point out the enormous laundry chute? you could put anything down there, including jenny, but she didn’t really jump down the chute, she just wanted erin to think she did. down here at the bottom, she hopped around on one foot as if she’d hurt herself. erin was not convinced.

  2. Anonymous says:

    And here’s the bathtub in the downstairs bathroom, where your mom had put her blinds to soak. And where we found Emily – who loved a bath more than the usual 2-year-old – in her ruffled pink overalls and matching tennies, happily sitting on the blinds, splashing her fingers around in the dirty water.

  3. lisa says:

    The laundry chute is yet to make an appearance, but I was unaware of the Jenny and Erin episode or the Emily in the tub story. Maybe we need to create a museum?

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