Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Houses I Grew Up In

I grew up in a neighborhood where everyone was welcome in everyone else's house. Everyone's parents were everybody's parents; when we were young, our folks must have agreed that one adult's permission was enough for all of the adults' permission. While Tam lived across the street from us, our house, DeeKay's house, and J Jump Joyful's, Eri's, Ria's, and P's back yards all had gates into each other's yards. To get to Coop's and DeeCoo's house we had to climb a the fences of the backyard of the apartment building between DeeKay's and the Coos', but we just considered that a more adventurous way to get there.

Where we went was determined by what we wanted to do. As a group, our parents had purchased a huge wooden swing set (with a ten-foot high metal slide), which sat in the W's backyard next to a tree three stories tall in which there were two treehouses. The big one was about twenty feet high and we climbed a leaning ladder to get to it since there were no branches within ten feet of the ground. It had walls and a roof, and a couple of windows. The higher one, which was reached by stepping from branch to branch, was merely a platform almost at the crown of the tree. There was also a rope swing tied at the bottom of the third-story deck, and a fort built into the stair supports.

The W's house had a big closet of games, coloring materials, and books, and we played Chinese checkers and Parcheesi sitting in there. There was a costume closet full of old formal dresses, ties, hats, and animal costumes (my favorite was that of a cheetah. I was sad when I grew out of it). All of the W kids had to take piano lessons, and a basket of maracas, plastic bongo drums, tambourines, finger bells, and a rainbow-colored xylophone sat next to the piano. Their house was the first (and for years, only) place I saw MTV.

DeeKay had a lot of stuffed animals and a record player in her room. She also had a bed on a box spring, which none of the rest of us did (No and I slept on beds with wood panels under the mattress; Tam had a bunkbed, P's was under a sloping ceiling, and JJJ, Ria, and Eri slept in beds that were cut out of the walls) so if we wanted to listen to "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and jump on the bed, her room was the place to go. When the K's remodeled their kitchen they had an instant-hot water faucet put in so we could kind of cook without using the stove.

At Coop's and DeeCoo's house we danced to Eagles Live, Don't Look Back by Boston, and Surrealistic Pillow by the Jefferson Airplane. We also used as many curse words as possible, since that was only allowed there. We climbed out the attic window and sat on the peaked roof to see the Pacific Ocean. Coop made chocolate mousse and taught me to crack an egg with one hand and how to separate the yolk and the white.

At Tam's there was a train in the rec room on which we could sit and push ourselves around the track, and her mom's loom, which fascinated me, and the many materials she used on it. Tam's older sister had a collection of trolls whose hair she allowed us to stroke, and Tam herself had a bunch of little dressed mice and a doll house in which they lived (which of course we called the Mouse House). She also had a radio in her room, and we would dance to Silly Love Songs, Fly Like An Eagle, An Old Fashioned Love Song, and The Year of the Cat. Tam taught me to play Blackjack using pennies from the three-gallon jar in her parents' bedroom.

At our house we had a variety of conveyances in the big room downstairs - a bike or two, tricycles, a green plastic car with pedals, a red plastic tractor with pedals, and a Big Wheel. There was a stop light and we would ride around the room in circles in time to the red, yellow, and green lights. We played kickball in the street in front of our house, and pretended we were a rock band while playing "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band" on the record player. We picked cherries from the tree in the back yard, and explored the stuff collected in the garage and the basement. DeeKay liked to eat the very sour ornamental oranges that grew in the driveway and one time made herself sick doing so.

Each of these houses was home.

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