I came across a photo of the house in which my parents and I lived for several years when I was a kid, and as I looked at it closely, the memories started flooding back.
It was the first house my parents ever owned. I think they paid $2,500 for it, probably in 1943. It was tiny…a small living room whose main feature was an oil stove which heated the entire house, my parents’ bedroom, my bedroom (which was so small it became the bathroom when dad built on a larger room for me), and the kitchen. At the time we moved in, the house had no bathroom. There was an outhouse at the back of the lot. There was also a small, one-car garage behind which was kept the fuel tank for the oil stove. Our water came from our own well, and the electric pump that brought it into the house was constantly breaking down, necessitating Dad’s frequent descent into the covered hole which held it.
Looking back on it now, I have a mixture of emotions: a very small degree of embarrassment to realize how very close we were to the bottom rung of the “middle class,” but primarily a sense of warmth and attachment, and a realization of the fact that no matter what the conditions are in which a child lives, to him/her, it is totally accepted. It is the way things are, and children have nothing, really, to compare it to.
We lived there for six years, from the time I was in third grade through eighth grade. I remember about a year after we moved in, I planted a tiny tree on one side of the yard, which I was charged with mowing—a chore I hated, since it seemed I never did so to my dad’s satisfaction.
And, I just this instant remembered, my beloved Lucky, shown in another of the photoblog pictures, was with us the entire time. I still truly agonize over what I still can’t help but think of as my dad’s betrayal in sending him away when we moved into our larger, 2-family house on Hutchins Avenue (of which, incidentally, I do not think I have a single photograph).
The Blackhawk Avenue house sat far back from the street, next to an empty lot in which all the neighbor kids would play. On the street behind us there was a small grocery store to which my mom would regularly send me. I distinctly remember one time her giving me a $5 bill (a fortune to me at that time and not a tiny sum for my family) and sending me to buy something. Somewhere between the house and the store, I lost the $5. I have no idea where or how…how can one lose something walking less than a block through an empty lot and in a straight line?…but I managed. My parents were less than happy, but I don’t recall being punished for it.
My Dad, never in my entire life, laid a hand on me, though I am sure he was tempted, and he certainly had ample and frequent cause. Mom would whack me on the behind, and the embarrassment and mental anguish far outweighed the pain.
But I see I am wandering, as you may have noticed I’m wont to do. We moved to Hutchins Avenue the summer before I began ninth grade, and the Blackhawk Avenue house was rented to my maternal grandmother, Gertrude, and her fourth husband, Albert Ameely, who lived there for several years.
After Dad’s death, mom sold the house to a man named Washington, and before he paid off the mortgage, which I think Mom held, the house was gutted by fire. Today it is an empty lot but, last time I passed by there several years ago, the tree, now very tall, was still standing. And of all the billions of people in the world, who but me knows I planted it? Well, now there’s you.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com: