What are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Describe your house. What did it look like? How did it smell? What did it sound like? Was it quiet like a library, or full of the noise of life? Tell us all about it, in as much detail as you can recall.
An old, two-story, two-family home in the city. The upstairs was an exact footprint of the downstairs: three bedrooms, one bathroom, living room, dining room, and kitchen.
A very small patch of a yard both front and back. No driveway, only an alley to the garage. The pathway between the house and the neighbor’s was so narrow that you could stretch your arms out and touch the sides of each house.
A girl my age lived in that house so close to us. I played with her through the fence. I don’t remember ever playing with her in the yard. I don’t know why.
The neighbor lady on the other side of us kept boarders. I remember watching her iron clothes one night through a bedroom window that looked into her dining room. About six or seven of her boarders sat around and watched her iron clothes that probably belonged to them. Sometime during my peeping experience, one of the boarders spied me spying on them through the window. They laughed and I ran off.
The key to the house was the hollow, barrel type that may have last been popular a hundred years ago. I still have it since it is an interesting looking thing. If I were crafty I would display it in a nice memory box. No such luck, I have no artsy motivation.
Before I was born, coal used to get dumped through a basement window to power the furnace. The company that probably delivered the coal was People’s Ice & Coal Company. I know that because I still have an awl with their company name imprinted on it, possibly a marketing tool (literally) for their customers. The ice they sold for those ice boxes used to keep food fresh before the electric cord took over. Their motto: Save Food, Flavor, Money With Ice.
The kitchen had neither counters nor cabinets. A pantry right off the kitchen made up for the lack of storage space. An old gas stove sat about a foot away from the wall because it was connected to a large pipe that sat between it and the wall. I remember because I used to hide back there sometimes.
The china cabinet in the seldom used dining room had a ring-style door pull that I repeatedly tried to unscrew from the inside of the door. They said I would become an engineer because of this curiosity in how stuff works. They were so wrong.
Victrola from the attic
When we were moving, the attic was empty except for a wind-up Victrola. They let me ride my tricycle in the attic that day they packed up. From the attic level, the stairway had no railings, it was only a rectangle hole in the floor. I rode toward the hole and down the stairs. I survived as you can see. The Victrola did not, it never made it to the new house.
The day we moved, I stayed in the empty house with my grandmother. I had the house key which was attached to a ribbon. I was terrified of the unoccupied upstairs flat and yet I kept running up and down to the second level, throwing the key out the open window. I must have done this dozens of times before my mother came back to bring me to the new house.
Now the bottom floor was deserted too. I don’t think we locked the door. Soon the wreaking ball came and leveled the house.