07 Aug Random Memories of My Childhood Home
(random, unedited, stream of consciousness memories)
The storeroom. Chipped white paint. Rotten wood siding. Pieces falling off, never fixed. Aged and worn. Sloped, red tin roof, connected to the brick house. Inside was stuff, both needed and not. The smell of concrete. Grab a ball to play. Grab a bike to ride. Grab a wrench to tighten bike chain. Freezer full of bread purchased in bulk. Stairs to the basement if descended banged heads. Where did this come from and what is that?
I’m there now, in my head, walking around. I’m 40. It feels the same. The stuff has changed, some remains. I can see the old framing of the walls with nails sticking through. Hooks and nails in the beams to hold bikes, flower pots, and lawn ornaments. This room held our stuff and our junk. It held my mothers life and my fathers anxiety. He kept old wood and other things just in case. My mother stored her passion for digging in the dirt and making our lives beautiful. It also held her work equipment, toys, and mats.
I could spend some time just sitting in there and getting drunk. Remembering. It was somewhere outside the house but still inside. It was a place to go. Was it an escape? I don’t know. It was a transition to elsewhere and held what one needed to get elsewhere, whether that was passage, equipment, or toys. I wish I could write more beautifully about it. I will be able to picture it from the inside until the day I die. I spent a lot of time in there.
It was often a mess. I helped my mother clean it when I got older cause it was driving me nuts. I do this – help people clean our their shit. More so on a metaphorical basis. We purchased a large dumpster and pretty much filled it. We tossed all sorts of stuff, stuff that my father probably wanted to keep, but if we asked for his input we would have filled the dumpster up about a quarter full. I wish I could remember everything we threw away. There was so much junk in there that wasn’t needed and I can’t remember any of it. High above the workbench was a bunch of wood that had been there for years. 2 by 4s and the like. Never used. My father didn’t like that we got rid of a bunch of it. We still left some for his sake and you never know when you need a piece of wood. But you never need to build a tree house on a whim.
I enjoyed just sweeping the place. Getting all the shit outside on the driveway and then sweeping, cleaning, organizing. I also cleaned out the attic which was always 1000 degrees and creepy. It had stuff that I can’t remember not being in there. I think I needed to get rid of something more than the things themselves, but the memory of chaos, of shit everywhere, of stagnation, of being stuck. I needed to remove some memories. Not all memories, just some. I needed more space in there. I needed it to be useable.
I bet my mother remembers a lot of the things we threw away. As a parent you know all the shit you’ve been accumulating and wishing was gone. As a kid its just a part of the house you’ve always known. Maybe I’ll ask her what we got rid of to see if she remembers. It will be like a game of trivia.
We may have even cleaned out the basement at the same time. It was a mess too. We had stuff everywhere. My parents never moved from that house after I was born and continue to live their days there, in more house than they know what to do with. There is still stuff in the attic, in the basement, and in the storeroom. In the basement were my father’s shirts. Button down, hanging on a clothes wire across the space where the washer and dryer used to be. You couldn’t stand up completely in the space or you would hit your head on asbestos. My mother probably got asbestos all over her several times a week before they finally put a new machine set upstairs near their bedroom. It only took them 10 years or more to realize they had an enormous house to move their washer and dryer into. My poor mother had walked down the basement stairs one day before they moved them and tripped on a stair that was probably loose and went flying forward, hitting her face straight into the concrete wall at the end of the stairs. Wake up call I guess.
Where was I anyway? Oh right, my father’s shirts. He didn’t wear them. They just hung on wire hangers. He said he didn’t want to get rid of them in case one day there was a depression and he no longer had money for clothes. These were shirts he wore probably 20 years prior when he worked an office job. At this point he was working in overalls on the third floor where he painted the walls one of the worst colours I’ve ever seen. As well, the same brown carpet I’ve always known is there still. I think his shirts are still in the basement. He wouldn’t let us throw them in the dumpster.
In the basement there was a bookcase full of cans of paint used over 30 years. I hope we got rid of those. I can’t remember. Bookcase might be the wrong term. Wood structure that held things. Maybe the paint was just on the floor to the right. What was on the shelving? Just more stuff. Man there was stuff everywhere.
The light for the left side of the basement was a bulb in the ceiling. You had to walk through spiderwebs in the dark and find the string to pull so the lightbulb would work. If you kept walking there were oil tanks for heat and under the sunroom floor was an area with a bunch of coal. I still don’t understand why that coal is there. So many strange things.
I was always afraid that I would fall through the floor when I walked around the attic. Old wooden boards, creaking and broken. There was a small window. I think birds flew in.
On the wall going down the stairs to the basement where my mother fell was shelving that used to hold all my father’s vitamins. Hundreds of vitamins. More than any human should take. Sitting on the top of the stairs were old wine jugs from my grandmother and aunt visiting that he put distilled water into – the kind with a glass loop next to the lid to slide your finger in to help pour. That’s a lot wine. He had his own distiller in his bathroom that distilled water that only he drank. No one else in the family wanted to drink it. I could write a whole book just on my father. I could write a whole other book just on this house and the things in it. I could write a whole other book just on the people who inhabited the house. I could write a whole other book on the strangers who came to the house. I could write a whole other book on the neighbours who lived around the house.