Sometimes of an early morning, as I stir and stretch, my mind drifts in the stillness of a new day and I begin to wander through the homes where I have lived.
Today, it’s my childhood home—a lovely Tudor-style single family that my mother and father had built just before the end of WWII. It was a split level, unusual for its time, with four bedrooms, a bath and a half, a family room, laundry room, basement and attic. It cost $12,500. We moved in the summer of my fifth birthday.
I enter through the milk chute. In those days of home delivery, it was a handy place for the milkman to stash the bottles, but also provides an emergency hatch if you find yourself locked out. For a few years, anyway, until you get too big..
Once inside, I’m standing in the laundry room—a full sized room with washer/dryer, double laundry tubs and a whole wall of built in cupboards and closets. I envy it now. In winter, the popular feature is the Mitten Rack. I think my dad built it. It comes out from the wall with arms on either side to slip on soggy mittens after a day on the slopes.
Through a short hall is what we call the Pine Room, paneled in knotty pine. It houses our upright piano and also a wonderful vent in the wall that pours hot air out between the couch and bookcase. In one corner is the infamous Dragon Vase, which I inherited. With good reason. I used to stash my old apple cores and tangerine peels in it.
Up a level is the kitchen with its family table in front of a picture window. There are glass shelves on it that hold an assortment of knickknacks. I can almost taste the mashed carrots and baked potatoes that kept our insides warm in winter and the exquisitely decorated birthday cakes.
On that floor is the dining room, scene of Sunday dinners with family, as well as Thanksgiving. Also, the living room, traditionally furnished with a cheery fireplace. In front of the picture window, I see our German feather Christmas tree, decorated to within an inch of its life. It’s a comfortable place and used quite a bit. In Lent, I see us all kneeling to say the Rosary, and in a sadder time, it holds my father’s casket.
The major staircase, where I learn the words “newel post,” leads up to my parents’ bedroom and mine. For a time, I shared it with my sister Kathy, six years younger than myself. I think we may have engaged in a few hostilities here and there. There is a cubby hole in my bedroom. I think it was to keep blankets in, but it was also great for trying out my brand new super-duper glow-in-the-dark decoder ring as soon as it came in the mail.
Up a few more stairs is a landing and a full bathroom. It’s there I construct my May altar to the Blessed Mother, with strings of blue and white crepe paper and vases of sweet-smelling lilacs, tulips, and lilies of the valley.
Off the landing is my brothers’ bedroom with its plaid wallpaper and my older sisters’ room, with its huge walk-in closet where I once hunted for Christmas presents in early December.
All windows have storms on them in winter to keep out the cold. However, at the bottom is a slot that can be moved up to expose three holes that let in the crisp night air.
The attic tops the house. It’s where our Christmas tree is kept, and the old glass-fronted bookcase that holds my dad’s medical books. I love thinking of the fact that it now holds our son’s medical books.
I cast my mind around one last time, spying the fruit cellar in the basement where my mom keep the jars of tomatoes, from which she makes the most awesome spaghetti sauce, simmered for hours in the deep well in our stove. I see the screened-in back porch so good for summer sleeping without mosquitoes, and the detached garage and double drive-way where I once practiced three point turns because nobody could go out and work on my driving with me. Sheltering the yard is the huge split-trunk maple I brought home as a small twig from Aunt May’s house. I climb it and sit among its branches once again.
There are other houses that I will wander another day, perhaps none with quite so many memories. Satisfied, though, for the moment, I rise and start the day.