Saturday, February 22, 2014

Where I Lived







14515 West 60th Terrace
Shawnee, Kansas 66216

I remember it to this day. My dad built that house. He did it with his bare hands. It was one of the first in that subdivision. Fields and grass were all around the lot. There are a million houses in all directions of it now, but not then. In fact there were so many streets that just “ended” near that house. So many that would later become main thoroughfares but that back then, 33 years ago (Whoa!  That just sunk in 33 years ago) those streets went exactly nowhere.

I was seven when we moved there. I remember coming there when it was not even close to being finished. I remember the smell of the fresh cut wood. I still love that smell. Both my father and my husband build houses by trade so it’s a smell ingrained in my soul. I could tell a thousand vivid stories about that house, but I think I’ll let this one just be about the bones of that house.

I watched it go up. I was so excited to see each new phase. I was especially excited to stand in what would soon be my bedroom. I’d sit on the plywood floor looking up at the clear blue sky before the roof was put on and I’d imagine the colors it would be painted. I’d imagine where my furniture would go and I’d imagine where each and every one of my treasured possesions would be housed. I got first pick, behind my parents of course, of rooms. I picked the one closest to bathroom. I wanted my own and this would be the next best thing. The other room also had the attic access in the closet and that kind of creeped me out.

I remember walking through the hall and into the dining room. I would peer over the edge of the opening where a sliding door would soon go into the mud caked back yard. I plotted where a swing set would be placed and imagined the lush grass I’d soon play in. There would later be a tiny playhouse looking just like the big house right there at the bottom of the stairs to a deck that was not yet built. I remember standing in the kitchen and wondering what each cubby and dividing wood structure would hold. A refrigerator or stove, a desk alcove, the sink, or a row of cabinets, what would it be? I watched little by little as it all took shape.

I was more knowledgeable at nine, about how these things went together than most adults. This was the third new house my dad had built for us. The first one we never lived in as a passer by loved it so much that he made an offer on it before it was even finished. The second one we lived in for only a year or two, and this one we’d planned on the same. It would not later play out that way. My parents would soon divorce and I’d actually spend the entire rest of my childhood in that house. My dad would build a thousand more new houses for other families, but never again one for his "happy" little family.

By the time I left that house when I was 18, I knew it like the back of my hand. I could have found my way around every corner, closet, and crevice wearing a blindfold. It was such and intimate place to me. I knew all of its flaws. She had a lot of them. I sometimes wonder if anyone has ever fixed any of them. The drawer in the guest bathroom (that was to the left if you are looking in the mirror) did not open all the way. It hit the door jam at about four inches open. It was only enough room for a small hand to fit. We kept almost nothing in that drawer. There was another just like it in the kitchen. When you opened that one it would hit the dials of the dishwasher. My mom kept her coupons in that drawer. The light on the left side of the front door if you were facing the house, never came on. No matter how much my dad tried to trace back the wiring, he could never make it come on. The floor of the “coat closet” was the ceiling of the stairwell to the basement. That meant that the floor in that closet was slanted and not flat. You could store nothing in that closet unless it fit on the shelf over the coats. There was a light switch at the bottom of the stairs to the playroom. It had four switches on the plate, and one of them went to absolutely nothing. It was always a mystery what it was even purposed for in the first place.

I loved that house. I guess I sort of imagined we’d always live there. I was broken when my mom told me she wanted to leave it. I don’t know why I loved it so much. So many bad things happened in that house. I can remember so many bad things and so very few really great things. I think I wanted to stay because so much of my life passed there, so many of my formative years. So much of my regular ordinary unimportant life happened there. Things like first kisses with boys, first dates, junior high and high school, best friends, graduations, curfews, first cars, fights with my sister, starting periods, having crushes, dying pets, planting flowers, honor rolls, and all of those other things regular life brings in and out. My sister broke my Prince album on the floor of the basement. We made up dance routines to the soundtrack of Xanadu. I roller skated to Def Leopard in the garage. I threw a party there my senior year and over 100 people came (it was epic). I burnt the hell out of some cookies, in that kitchen, which caused the smoke alarm to go off and my sister to come crawling from her room screaming, “Stop, drop, and roll.” I stepped in the neighbors dog poo in that yard. I was tired of that dog (Sandy) pooping in our yard so I gathered up all of it and threw it at their house. I had night terrors in my perfect fuscia bedroom where my mom’s boyfriend stole my innocence and trust and replaced it with a hole that sometimes to this day feels void. I saw my dad cry for the first time on the couch in the living room of that house when my mom said she’d had enough. Fights between my parents (so many many fights), I listened to in that house. Insignificant memories and life altering moments; all of them a part of me.

When we left there, I wrote a note to the person who would later live in my room. I hid it in the trim on the inside of the closet in my bedroom. I wish I could tell you that I remember exactly what that note said. I wish I knew whether or not someone ever found it. I remember only that in the note I said that I hoped they took good care of the house it wasn't her fault, and that I hoped this bedroom brought better things to their life than it had brought to mine.

That house had good bones. That house had bad skeletons. I loved that house. I hated it a little bit too I suppose.