Halfway through my sixth-grade year, right around my birthday, we moved into a completely normal (read: not haunted) house that was really too big for three people, a dog, and two cats. (Another post on pets to come later.) The house had four bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths. The living room had a vaulted ceiling up to an open loft. Upstairs along with the loft was one bedroom and bathroom. Downstairs were the master (with double doors and it’s own half bath), the remaining two bedrooms, and the other full bath. Oh, and a kitchen of course. That led out onto a covered patio.
I loved this house. I loved that I had space. I especially loved being home along and knocking around by myself (something I still love today). But even when my parents were around, the house was big enough to hide out in.
At first my parents took the upstairs and gave me the master. Wow! And across from that room a “play room” was designated. All my toys and my television set were put in that bedroom. The other bedroom was a guest room that doubled as an office. This was before we had a real computer, but we did have a word processor. I could type 80 wpm.
Eventually my parents got sick of walking up and down stairs, so they took back the master, and I got to move upstairs. The loft became my play room, or really (as I got older) my personal library, lined with bookshelves. My parents almost never came up to bother me, preferring to stand at the foot of the stairs and call—because I almost never had my intercom on.
Oh yes. Our house had an intercom system. And a built-in radio that could be piped through the house if you turned on all the intercom speakers. It was awesome. But I would turn off the intercom most of the time, which left my parents having to resort to yelling for me. They didn’t even bring stuff upstairs, just set my stuff on the stairs for me to carry up later. Didn’t I say they were
It was, perhaps, a kind of benign neglect. But to a teen, it was just plain wonderful not to be bothered. And I was pretty self-regulating anyway. I didn’t often go out, and on the few occasions I did, I knew to call home if it got past ten and let my parents know where I was, when I’d be home. This was back when you still had to carry money for a pay phone.
They didn’t care if I stayed up late so long as I got up the next morning. I’d sit up and listen to music, sometimes until two in the morning. Like my dad, I’m something of a night owl. I’d rather sleep in and stay up late. Though now I have kids, that’s not really possible any more.
My favorite thing to do, though, was to sit in the rocking chair I kept in my room, open the curtains, and watch the night sky wheel while I listened to music. I have to move when there’s music on. I have to dance, or rock in a chair, or be driving in a car, flying on a plane, taking a long walk in the hills (or on a treadmill). That’s the French Creole in me, I think. We’re made to move, especially to the beat.
Still, my tastes were quite wide. There was all I’d grown up listening to, and I liked a lot of pop/rock too. Could tolerate a modicum of country. Never was one for metal, though, or techno. And I still can’t listen to rap music.
I had friends who liked, I dunno, Morrissey? Red Hot Chili Peppers? Henry Rollins? I didn’t like any of that stuff. I couldn’t name a single one of either of those bands’ songs. I didn’t mind some Cure, was okay with Erasure . . . One year as a joke all my friends gave me a different Michael Bolton CD for my birthday. At least, I hope it was a joke.
I went through the requisite Pink Floyd phase, listening to Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall a lot. I define 1989 through two albums I fell in love with that year: Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever and Don Henley’s The End of the Innocence. (That was also the year of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.)
Anyway, I lived in that house until going off to university in 1994, and it was the place I always came home to until my parents sold it and moved in 1999. But I come back to that house—and variants thereof—often in my dreams. I can remember how the light changed in the living room as the day waned, how it felt and smelled when we opened all the windows, how it would actually get chilly in the evenings. Daffodils and violets lined the front walk in springtime. My upstairs bedroom averaged 100+°F in the summer. And I didn’t mind it a bit.
Years later Dad would admit to me he hated that house. It makes me sad to know that. Because I loved it. But maybe children can afford to love their childhood homes because they cannot see all the flaws. A child, when raised in a happy place, only knows the joy and warmth coming home provides.