Monday, November 24, 2008

17 McMaster St.

I recently wrote this essay for my Nonfiction Workshop class.

Yellow with red shutters. 885-4953. Staircase railing so tempting to slide down. Two doors to each bedroom. A huge mirror next to the stairs. These are memories of my old house. It feels like I went through with a mental camera before we moved and took a picture of each part of the house. Why is it that certain images, and not others, are stuck in my head? Disjointed, random, sometimes meaningless – that is the form my memories usually come in. They are small snapshots of a time gone by, fragments of my life, arbitrarily cemented permanently in my mind.


The Porch

I learned to roller blade on the porch, with my big sister at my side. With my purple knee pads strapped on tight and my ankles wobbling with uncertainty I rolled myself along the railing, not willing to let go. Why should I? I was perfectly content with this pseudo version of roller blading that kept me on my feet… most of the time.

Pictures were always taken on the porch: first day of school pictures, with my sister and I standing near the stairs, about to embark on a new adventure, dressed to the tee. My lunchboxes changed over the years, from Barney, to Beauty and the Beast, each with a matching thermos inside.

My sister’s prom pictures were also taken on the porch, her with her arms slung around her boy of choice, with a face saying, “Mom… no more pictures!” We pretended to dread them, but it was all an act. Getting pictures back from being developed was, and still is, one of my favorite things. My memories are preserved for me; I don’t have to worry about losing them.

My Bedroom

My best friend since nursery school and I used to play “Pet Shop” in my bedroom. We bought and sold animals, and when they were sold, we chucked them out my doorway into the hall. One time, we drew a red mark under one of the bunnies’ eyes, an “unknown ailment,” and I thought for sure I was going to get into huge trouble. I don’t remember if I did.

The tree branches always scraped against my window, I swore that a witch was lurking in my doorway, and I was convinced that when the teenagers got done skateboarding across the street, they were going to come rob our house. Sometimes, during a nightmare, I would fall out of bed with a thud onto the floor and my mom would come running. I don’t move at all in my sleep anymore.

The Living Room

My dad always lies on the carpet in front of the T.V. head propped up on his elbow. and 45. He looks extremely uncomfortable, but he’d rather be there than on the couch. In our old house, the T.V. had no remote and only five channels – 6, 10, 13, 23, Some nights, while he was laying there watching Jeopardy, I would tie his hair into millions of little ponytails while trying to answer the questions with him. We would play with coins; whoever got a question right would get a certain amount of coins added to their pile. He pretended the ponytails bothered him, with their multicolored hair ties; inside, he loved it.

The “Wizard of Oz” is always on T.V. once a year. One year, my aunt, sister and I decided we were going to reenact it. I spent hours making a “yellow brick road” leading from the kitchen to the living room. I was so proud of it, so upset when people would mess it up. It just consisted of pieces of yellow legal pad, arranged into a path, but I treated it like a work of art. It was in the living room where I found out that my Great-Grandma Amy died. I remember that the call came through on the gray phone under the side table. I don’t remember who told me, or if I cried, or how I felt, but I remember that the phone was gray.


My mom’s walk-in closet, watching lightning storms from her window, the CD rack in my sister’s room, a mouse in the paper bag in the garbage can, antiques above the cabinets, the Christmas tree with apple ornaments in the greenhouse, the wooden swing in the backyard. My memories are a mile long; they may not be continuous, or important, but they’re mine – mine to hold onto. There really is no place like home.

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