Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This Old House

The Old House isn't too much to look at anymore. The shutters are off their hinges and the roof is missing a lot of shingles; some of the windows are cracked and the wooden boards are desperate for a new coat of paint. But to me, it's still beautiful, the most beautiful house in the world.

No matter what anyone tells you, a house isn't made of brick and wood, it's made of memories, and as I look around this old house in which I grew up, the memories come flooding back into my mind. There, right in the center of the living room, there's the bare spot on the rug where our big old dog, Spot, used to settle in the for the night. Spot's spot, we used to call it. And just a few feet away, behind the couch, there's my secret hiding place, the place I would hide every night when I heard Dad stumbling home from the bar.

Everywhere I look I see memories. To my adult eyes the room I shared with my sister seems so small, but once it seemed like the biggest room in the world. Coats of paint have long since covered the walls, but in my mind as I look at those walls, I can still see the messages my sister used to write to Satan.

Oh, how many hundreds of hours did I spend sitting at the old kitchen table doing my homework as Mom cooked dinner? When I run my fingers over the wall, I can still feel the plaster filling the bullet holes Dad made when he accidentally fired a clip from the semiautomatic weapon that he didn't know was loaded. Boy, until that day I never knew Mom could move so fast. Dad was so embarrassed when he got sobered up. We all laughed at that one, except Spot, of course. Poor old Spot.

As I climb the creaky wooden staircase, I can't help but remember all the games we played there. If I look at the steps real closely, I can still see traces of the skid marks left by Grandma's wheelchair as she tried to put on the brake. Mom sure didn't think Roll Grandma Down the Stairs was a funny game. Well, we couldn't play it without Grams anyway. Poor old Grandma.

Walking into the tiny room Dad built for Grandma and Grandpa, I have to remember to duck so I don't bang my head against the low ceiling beam. How we used to laugh every time we heard the unmistakable thump when Grampa forgot it was there and walked straight into it. I can still remember Mom telling me after we heard that sound, "dear, go upstairs and revive your grandpa." And looking around the room, there isn't even a single sign of the fire. There's not even an ax mark in the door where the firemen broke it down. Poor old Grampa.

The attic smells as musty and stuffy as it did when I was five years old. I used to hide up there for hours, just waiting for my sister to sneak up there with another one of the older boys from the neighborhood. And looking out the window, I can still see the tiny little claw marks left on the windowsill by Buck, the cat, as he tried to hold on as my sister pushed him out.

The basement is as damp and dark as I remember it. It was down in the basement that Dad used to play scary games with us like Hang the Pet. In fact, there's still a little piece of rope hanging from one of the beams. As I feel the cool cement on my feet, I remember how careful I used to be. Dad always warned us that it was bad luck to step on an animal's grave.

There'll be a For Sale sign on the old house pretty soon now. Someone will buy it, fix it up, and make it look brand-new. And they'll start building their own treasure chest of memories there. But for me, it will always be my house, the house in which I learned all about life.

No comments: