The House That Built Me
There was only one house. Driving past it today I wonder how seven people, one Mom, one Dad and five children cohabited there without death or destruction ensuing. It had one small bathroom, one tiny kitchen, one living room and three bedrooms. There was no basement except for a hole excavated a few years later to accommodate an oil furnace. There were no air ducts – just a couple of vent grates on the floor of each upstairs bedroom.
Today it is a heritage house so declared because of the history of it’s origins. The exterior of this one and a half story wartime house was originally clap board. The whole street had been built for returning veterans (of the second world war). They were basic homes and cost my folks three thousand dollars at the time.
It was a young family street with lots of children around the same age. I referred to that in my blog The First Real Snow Storm and the plunking that went on.
The house, my house, sits on a quarter of an acre and all the yards just ran I to each other. Plus there was, is, a boulevard down the middle of the street. We had plenty of play room.
My earliest memories might seem a little strange or other worldly to some of you youguns but it is all true.
In nineteen fifty-two we were one of the first families to have a TV set. There were probably only six channels if that. Black and white of course but there were a few years where some smart marketer sold colored transparent paper that you stuck to the front of the screen. Ours was pink so we had a pink colored TV. There was a huge knob on the front of the set and when you wanted to change channels you actually got up off the sofa and cranked it loudly.
We did not watch much TV. During the weekday if my Mom was not working she watched the fifteen minute Search For Tomorrow at noon. Saturday afternoons it was Howdy Doody, Roy Rogers and Gene Audrey and Annie Oakley. Little boys imagined themselves growing up to be cowboys. Barbies had not been invented but girls had tea sets and porcelain dolls. Me I was with the boys and wanted to be Annie Oakley.
Sunday nights after church it was Ed Sullivan and I think Edward R Morrow who sat at his desk and puffed on cigarettes while he did his form of investigative journalism. Of course everyone smoked; on buses, in the movies, in shops…well every where. Later Sunday nights were for Bonanza. (Cowboys were our heroes then.)
There was a small shed attached to the house where the coal was delivered which fed the only furnace, a coal burning stove that sat in the living room. Later that room became a laundry utility room when we moved to oil. For years that huge oil tank was part of the rear exterior of our palace.
Upstairs there were two bedrooms – the girls room and the boys room. From the window of the girls room which overlooked the side lawn the older kids encouraged the younger kids to jump just like the cowboys..out of the window. It’s a wonder we ever survived but survive we did.
I remember the ice man coming down the street with a horse drawn cart. He delivered frequently to keep our ice boxes cool. Then the milk man who delivered glass bottles daily during the week. In the winter the milk would freeze and the little card board lids would pop up.
In this tiny dwelling I learned you can fight and yell and later laugh and live together with love. I learned one bathroom really was enough (how I don’t know but it must have been because none of us were ever incontinent.). I learned you could read and study and not be bothered by noise. This has come in handy over the years. I learned that the kitchen table or the floor was as good as any desk.
I learned and when I think of the house that built me I give thanks. And now as my eyes fill with tears at those memories and so many more I feel a deep profound homesickness.