This past week-end my parents finished cleaning out the house that I grew up in, as the house will be sold next week to a young couple with kids that need it more. To help with the final cleaning, all four of the kids were there.
I'm not sure how I feel about this "end of an era," because there are just so many endings going on in my life right now. I know that I didn't feel too sad, even when my sister Kerrie revealed a present for my Mom and Dad that she had been preparing for months--a beautiful painting of the front of our old house. Mom was in tears, but I just kind of sat back and took it all in.
During much of the day, I was busy taking stuff out of the house and moving them to a storage area, for use in my apsartment, as I make the move in two weeks. As I was returning the U-Haul, Josie drove down to pick me up...and I just, broke down, kind of. I sat there in the passenger's seat, and she held my hand, and I think it was just a combination of everything--their move, my move, the silence with Laurie (which continued during the day) that set me off.
Anyway, I took these pictures, just so that I can remember.
The exterior to my bedroom, which I shared with my brother Tommy.
Our bedroom. How empty and small it now seems! Our beds were side by side, for so many years. When I entered high school, we turned them around and managed to have five feet of space established between the two of us. My bed used to be on the left, right next to that window. Underneath the window was a toy chest, and I'd keep my comic books stored inside. I had thousands, and eventually I had to start storing them in the closet. On top of the toybox, for many years, were about 25 stuffed animals. Mine, of course. One time, after I read Amityville Horror and was staying up with dreams of Jodie the pig floating through my head (man, I just got a chill thinking about it now), my sister Laurie snuck in and attached red eyes to all of the animals. I almost crapped my pants when I entered the bedroom that night. That's also the window where my brother's favourite memory occurred...when, on Christmas Day, our next door neighbor, Bubbah, decided to wake up at six in the morning and drive his moped around their house for about two hours. Finally, at eight, I lifted up the window and screamed out, "Would you shut the fuck up???" Always one to win friends and influence people, I am.
And writing. I remember writing so many pieces, sprawled out on my bed, writing upon an old wooden board that I still retain to this day. Writing short stories, novels, poems, and journal entries. "The Mitchell Saga, by Vern Saga...personal, painful, and true!" And so many nights spent crying over S. Silly boy. Silly silly silly boy.
My sisters Laurie and Kerrie stayed in this room. I would make my way in, too, because the light was better in their closet, so I could read late at night there. I can still remember Kerrie, rocking herself to sleep at night, her blanket in her hand, making up little chants as she rocked. And Laurie, of course, and some of the few good memories we actually share, such as playing Mom and Dad's old 45s on our phonograph. The Beatles were a revelation.
Mom and Dad's room. In this room, my Dad used to put me to sleep at night by reading the Hardy Boys and then making up stories, about Ed Drew (Nancy's younger brother) and the Lone Ranger and Tonto. It was in this room that I developed a love for storytelling. Although it was the Ed Drew stories that prompted me to start writing (using manilla paper Dad pegged from his school), I am still fondest of the Lone Ranger stories. Each one would end with the Lone Ranger having a chocolate cake delivered to him, which Tonto would eat before he could receive it. But the Lone Ranger would always know what had happened, and Tonto would act surprised and ask, "How did you guess?" And the Lone Ranger would say, "Tonto, you've got it written ALL over your face..." Hey, when you're five, you're easily entertained...
Our living room was a center of activity, particularly during Christmas. Decorating the Christmas tree was a huge tradition, and we'd all sit around the fireplace after the decorations were hung, with Burl Ives playing in the backroom, listening to the crackle of the burning wood...and it just felt so safe. So warm. I never felt more protected or at ease.
The picture window in the living room was a source of constant delight for me. That's all I can really say right now.
Nana's living room. Every night, at around seven, I'd go down for tea and peanut butter toast, and to watch TV with my Nan. I don't think I've expressed how full of love and devotion that woman is. I don't know if I can, but that lady, sitting in her green naugahyde couch, crocheting blankets and slippers, outlasted all four kids in that house and even my parents. She was the center of that household, and is the truest, most genuine person that I know.
Nana's kitchen. Toward the end of our years in the house, I spent a lot of time here, as every Wednesday, I'd take Ashes to see Nana, and she'd cook for us. I also saw every episode of General Hospital's Ice Princess saga sitting at the kitchen table after school. Nana was at work, in the mill, and it was the best place to have some privacy.
Dad's den. Every single bit of space on those bookshelves were filled.
Dad's bar area. Another Christmas high point, especially during the later years. They still had an 8 track there, and I can still recall the albums...Sonny and Cher Live, Godspell, The Stranger, Abba's Arrival...
The old part of this cellar can still manage to scare me to this day. Growing up, Dad would turn all the lights off in the cellar and don a black hooded mask, and Laurie and I would sneak down into the gloom, where he'd be hiding, waiting to catch us. And if we did, he'd lock us in the old part of the cellar, for a few seconds. God, that was a great game. Imagine the electrical thrill, making your way down the steps, knowing that someone was hiding, waiting to spring out at you...it was a great game.
And I do believe the cellar was haunted. But those are stories for another day.