Posted on Leave a comment

Home Sweet Home

I made a rough watercolor of the cabin my sister and I stayed in at the bottom of the Grand Canyon 3 years ago.

My brother sent a photo and news video recently about a house we lived in as kids (below). There had been a fire and the friends and neighbors were rallying to help out the family. That house was not much when we lived there, and the story brought back a flood of memories.

We moved there when I was 7 years old. It was a tiny little house in a rundown neighborhood on the outskirts of St. Louis. But we had loads of fun there. I remember that very well. The house had an upstairs, more of an attic, divided into two parts. My three brothers had the side with a sliding door and we four girls shared an even tinier space with no door. We girls slept head to foot in two hospital beds our Aunt Marie, a nurse, had acquired. And we had a ton of fun, even in that tiny room. We played a sort of football game on the beds with rolled up socks, a game I’m pretty sure I made up, dubbed Hike 44. Though we were jealous of the boys’ “bigger” bedroom, we enjoyed invading their territory when they weren’t around.

Our house, sixty years after we lived there.

We’d moved there from a house my parents owned, in which all seven of us kids slept in the same bedroom. That neighborhood was nicer, though, and there was a white fence across the front and a patio my Dad had made in back, with large squares of different colors of concrete. Apparently, Dad had intended for us all to move back to California, where he was from, and he sold that house. But something fell through and we were stuck. So we moved into that little tiny rental, where Dad used to say if you were sitting on one side of the living room you’d be touching knees with whomever was sitting on the other side. We lived there for three years.

There were two houses past us to the east, and beyond them an empty lot that we took advantage of, for all sorts of adventures. Another great feature was the ditch on the other side of the house. All for our fun. We played cars and trucks in that ditch, dared each other to jump across, and had even more fun when it rained, making little streams, dams, and lakes. There were many times when I couldn’t bear to go in for dinner. That is also the house where we girls played the game of being witches, wearing a blanket or sheet on our shoulders and running around the yard, under that characteristic Midwest pre-thunderstorm green-grey sky. As tiny and cramped as that house was, we had all kinds of fun there.

I photographed this interesting house on a trip to Montana with my siblings.

Across the street from us were Mr. and Mrs. Fredericks, an older couple with no children. I was a very shy little girl, but for some reason I spent time at their house, just on my own. They had a sink in their basement, which I found very unusual, and she pronounced it “zink,” which was also interesting to me. One time I bragged to Mrs. Fredericks that my waist was 24” (apparently not bothered that made me a rather chubby little girl). She couldn’t believe it and said she’d give me a quarter if it was true. She took out her measuring tape and I got my quarter!

I bet my parents were pretty unhappy to have landed there with seven kids all crammed together. I’m pretty sure I would have been, had I been the adult. I might even have felt a bit desperate. I wonder if they knew how little it mattered to us kids?

It was just one of the four houses we lived in when I was growing up and definitely the lowliest. But it was still home to us kids and I have many fond memories of living there.

“You haven’t really been anywhere until you’ve got back home.”

― Terry Pratchett, The Light Fantastic

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. And if you like this letter, you’ll find past letters and poems on my blog. And if you know someone who would enjoy these letters, go ahead and forward this one!

Thanks for listening,

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *