home is where my heart is

My childhood home, the second entry in a series of posts about all of the places I’ve called “home.” The first can be found here:

From the age of 2 until I moved out on my own I lived in Ramsey, Minnesota. My mother still lives there today, though the house looks nothing like it did when we moved in save for the horribly pink carpet in my childhood bedroom.
Originally the house had flowery wallpaper that took ages to remove, yellowing linoleum, shag carpet, wood paneling on the walls, and avocado green. Avocado green everywhere. I’m not kidding you, the appliances, counter tops, and even some walls were green.
Now, it has beautiful wood floors, stone tile, granite counter tops, and with an entire addition, it is twice the size it was before. I feel as if my entire life took place in that house. That house is filled with some of the happiest memories of my life and some of the worst memories of my life.
My very first memory is in that house, wearing princess dresses in the basement while my father’s band practiced until all hours of the night. My parents liked to entertain and I had lots of friends come and go back then. There were a few good years before it all blew up and my father lured us away to break in and steal all of our things. He cut the phone lines and threatened to murder us all, he hid marijuana plants above our garage, and was in and out of jail all before I was six. Eventually my mom got out of that marriage, and there was calm for a while.
My brother and I climbed every tree in the backyard, and I remember rolling down the back hill in a barrel until we couldn’t see straight anymore. We fought, we played, we rode our bikes to every corner of the neighborhood and never came inside before dark. When I was ten, my mom re-married and I got two new brothers. We added on to the house to accommodate all those people and I helped pour the concrete for the driveway, re-shingle the roof, and we all put our hand prints beneath the garage. If you crawl under the floor there through a trapdoor you can still see them.
I can’t even begin to cover everything that happened in that house in the 16 years I lived there. It was my entire young lifetime. I scratched the initials of the boy who gave me my first kiss into the baseboard of my bedroom, I climbed out my window countless times to smoke cigarettes behind the shed, and I blared Harry James records while burning incense late into the majority of my teenage nights.
My stepfather overdosed twice in that house, and twice I watched the ambulance lights flashing away down the street. My mom eventually got out of that marriage as well.
When we were remodeling the upstairs bathroom we found a letter beneath the floor. It was a love letter from Mrs. Cro to Mr. Vel. Vel-cro. It seemed as if they had been having an affair and who knows how long that letter had been there beneath the floor, possibly undelivered. I begged my mother to let me keep the letter but she threw it away, saying that if it was an affair it was better to destroy it anyhow. It made me think of all the people who had lived there before and what their stories might have been. I imagined Mrs. Cro standing over the sink, crying her tears of unrequited love into the dirty dishwater.
I moved out of that house when I was 18 and on my way to college to start my adult life. My mother lives there, in that enormous house, alone. She rents out rooms to girls who need a place to stay, and has two dogs to keep her company. She has a boyfriend now, who I believe is her soul mate, and I am so happy that she has finally found her happiness. I visit there on holidays or just to drop in and say hi, and I stand in my old bedroom where the only thing that remains is the wallpaper with palm trees and the tree I painted on the back of the door. I can almost feel my teenage self there, my “the-whole-world-is-against-me” attitude and those big feelings you only have in those years.
My mother has plans now to sell it, to start over, and finally be rid of all of those memories that permeate the walls there. Even if she does, I believe a part of me will always live there, and maybe, a part of me will always be blaring Harry James and sneaking out windows, trying to find my place in the world.


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