Home, Part One

My boyfriend and I are moving soon. The second that we decided to not renew our lease and that it was time to move, I was overcome with sadness, anxiety and overwhelming doom. Moving is so stressful and I am just overwhelmed by it all right now. It was a Tuesday morning via g-chat that we hammered out the decision that yes, we have to move. The rest of the week I was in a deep funk of stress and worry.

I’ve moved around a lot I think. Growing up, we moved 3 times in my childhood. We moved out of our first tiny apartment when I was 5 or 6, in the middle of my first grade. My whole life until that point, we lived in that small attic apartment on Lincoln Place that was on the top of the two-family home my grandfather owned. I think we lived there because my parents were young and didn’t have a lot of money. It certainly wasn’t for the familial closeness, because my mother hated her father so much. I don’t have any memories of my grandfather, honestly, but I think I used to call him “that mean man downstairs” or something to that effect.

Growing up there, I was young, so I only remember good things really. I loved the neighborhood and I had lots of friends. We had a fig tree in the back yard, and on the other side of the fence there was a girl named Amy. Her family was rich and Italian and going to their house was so completely different than mine. Everything was pristine and covered in plastic, and something always smelled like sauce in her house. Her grandmother would see us come in, and then yell something in Italian that I didn’t understand and shoo us out of the house again. I liked playing at her house because she had a swing set. What torture it was, for it to be just on the other side of the fence from me, just beyond the fig tree, but I couldn’t play on it without my friend.

My brother and I in the first place we ever lived.

Looking back on it, I can really see how I was brought up with a sense of equality because I rolled with a very diverse crowd. One of my closest friends lived two doors down. Tim, who was one year older than me, was mentally challenged slightly. He was a little slower, sure, but he was one of my best friends and he taught me how to ride his bike.

My other friend there, Maria, she was from Ecuador. She had a brother that played with my younger brother. She was also the first kid on the block to get a Nintendo. I was absolutely captivated by watching this little man named Mario jump across the screen. My family had an Atari and I was allowed to play it sometimes. Maria wasn’t even allowed to play the Nintendo yet. We watched her dad and older brother play mostly. I was so jealous though! It looked like so much fun! When my family finally got a Nintendo, I realized why the older men said “no, no… this isn’t for little kids.” It was just so they could hog the game themselves. My dad was a Mario Master.

Just around the corner was a girl named Cassie. We were the same age, but she was taller and even though I was young, I knew she was beautiful and would always be. She had a pretty house with a big garden and came from a warm Italian family. They grew grapes in the yard that they made their own wine with. One day, it was Memorial Day I think, my family was going to a picnic or bbq somewhere that I didn’t want to go to. My little five-year-old brain said “well, I’ll just go hang out with Cassie” and I left without telling anyone. When my mother finally found me playing with Cassie in her to-die-for Lisa Frank decorated bedroom, she was frantic and told me I was never going out of her sight again. At the time, I didn’t see what the big deal was, I was only around the block! But as an adult, knowing the implications of a child going missing, I get it. Sorry, Mom. This was also right around the time where kids were getting snatched up. I remember being warned about a white van or a red pick-up truck that had been ID’d in some kidnappings or something like that. I was always on the look out for a truck cruising past me just a little too slowly.

“What do you want to be when you
grow up?”
Me:  Asian.

It was a great neighborhood to live in, in my opinion. There were so many kids to play with, and it was a time when even with the warnings about suspicious vans and trucks, you could send your kids outside to play and then just call them in the house for dinner and not worry if they’d come back or not. I was friends with every kid on the street… every house had a kid! There was another friend I had down the other end of the block. I don’t remember her name, but she taught me about sniffing markers and glue. There was Johnny in the blue house that had a real, honest-to-goodness built-in sandbox in his yard and monkey bars! The teenagers two houses down from me and across the street from them seem like the coolest kids in the world, and I couldn’t wait to grow up to be just like them. Especially the pretty Japanese teen, who would come to remind me of Claudia from The Baby-Sitters Club books. The house next door to me, they’d had kids at some point long, long ago, because they had a tall metal jungle gym that at one point you could tell was painted bright red, but had chipped and faded into a dull rust color in their secret-garden of a yard. The woman who lived there was older when I was small and she liked having me play in her yard sometimes. I liked the tire swing and the ancient jungle gym, it seemed like something from another time. There was a huge oak tree and vines and ivy covering everything. Somewhere in all that green, I knew there were secrets, and I was secretly happy that I was allowed to play amongst them.

Our house wasn’t nice. It was small and we all shared one bedroom. My brother and I had a bunk bed and I had the top bunk. The house itself wasn’t memorable, it was the ugliest house on the block but I was a happy child there. In 2000, my grandfather died. I don’t think there were services. My aunt, mother and grandmother sold the house. It was demolished and a new house built on the lot that looks nothing like where I live, and there is no more eyesore on Lincoln Place anymore.

One Response to “Home, Part One”

  1. Jaclyn

    It’s sort of weird for me to read this because it makes me realize how absurdly abnormal my childhood was. I didn’t grow up around other children besides my siblings until 4th grade. I don’t remember neighborhoods or neighbors or playmates from before then because we lived in at least a dozen different places before I was 8 and went to 5 or 6 different schools. It makes me sad that I don’t have memories like this and it makes me realize why I was so awkward when we finally did settle into one place. Because unlike most kids, I didn’t grow up in one place, with all the same people. Man, this post was kind of a downer for me.


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