In the winter of 1985, while I was halfway done growing in my mom’s belly, my parents moved into a little brown 3 bedroom/1.5 bath that was halfway between the school and the prison in which my dad worked as a corrections officer. I would be the first baby they brought home to their new house, joining my older sister.
I’d take my first steps across the brown shag carpet that the previous owner had installed. The back bedroom was mine, and mom plastered Smurf-themed wallpaper on the accent wall to try to get me to sleep in there every night, a mostly futile effort because I’d end up sharing my sister’s room with her by the time I was four because apparently big sisters can keep the monsters away (and she did).
In the basement, my dad had a workout room covered in our artwork, where he’d listen to old country music while we rode our big wheels around the support beam that helped hold our house up. When we weren’t riding bikes we were thinking up elaborate storylines for our Barbies to reenact, usually storylines from Mom’s soap operas.
In the spring of 1992, my dad and many of his friends and cousins worked hard to double the size of our house with an addition that would include two new bedrooms, a bigger kitchen, a family room, and a two-car garage. Once it was complete, we welcomed our new baby brother who would breathe new life into our home and our hearts.
Christmases were an event at our house with my dad picking out the most oddly shaped tree he could find until mom insisted on investing in a good artificial. Birthday parties were usually held at our house, too: two in June and one in December, with Mom and Dad’s in the fall going by subtlety but not without each of them leaving a card on the counter for the other the day of their respective birthdays.
Glimpses of my parents hugging each other by the kitchen sink or my mom crying on the house phone as she received the news that her favorite aunt had died the night before play through in my mind. My grandmother running her long fingernails through my hair as I sat in front of her on the floor during an episode of The Golden Girls on the nights she’d come down and stay with us so my parents could have some time out together.
We had the biggest yard on the block, with a massive maple tree that had sprouted in six or seven directions to make it more like many trees in one. It had to have been at least 150 years old. A tiny brook ran along the side of our woods where many summers were spent in the treehouse dad built us and riding our bikes on the paths he had cleared.
That old bathroom where I can still remember taking baths with my big sister with our mermaids and bath toys every night in the summer. Right up to bathing my own boys in that tub and teaching them to use the potty in the same bathroom I learned to go in.
And just like Miranda sings, that little back bedroom in the new addition dad had built was my sanctuary. While Miranda may have plucked guitar strings, I penned poems and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfiction and turned into a young woman probably faster than I would have liked.
Time is funny like that. One minute you are the kid and the next you’re the parent. In the flash of an eye, my mom walked by our bedroom with her beautiful long brown hair, and now it’s my sister and me with the long brown hair and the babies who watch us walk through our family home during get-togethers.
That old house got a makeover shortly after the addition, with white siding added and some blacktop added to the dirt driveway. That’s what it still looks like today as I fill my car up with my kids and boxes of stuff my mom has given me after a visit with my parents. Boxes of mementos, pictures, things my parents will no longer be able to fit or want in their new place.
The decluttering is nearly done, and soon the “For Sale” sign will be put out front.
Not many people get to live in one house for most of their childhood. I was one of the lucky few. That white ranch style house that was built into a hill with a cement staircase leading up to the front door is a part of who I am. All of my childhood memories are within her walls. Almost absorbed into her walls is the laughter of the five of us. She has seen us crying and seen us argue. She has held us close in the darkest and coldest of northern New York winters and warmed our souls after long periods of time away.
No matter who moves in next (and I’m secretly hoping it will be another young family) that house that sits on the old brook road will always be a part of me. And maybe one day no matter where life takes me, like Miranda, I might just knock on the door and ask to take a peek around the house that built me.
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