(Writing 101, Day Eleven: Size Matters
Today, tell us about the home you lived in when you were twelve. For your twist, pay attention to — and vary — your sentence lengths.)
When I was twelve, I was in seventh grade. That would have been during the two years that we lived in a rented house on Killingsworth Avenue in Portland, Oregon. I remember it as having a brick facade, with a pretty red brick chimney that had darker bricks making the pattern of a huge X about halfway up. I had a crush on a boy in my class who liked to tell me, “X marks the spot!” in describing where I lived.
The house was located in a pleasant residential neighborhood, within walking distance of the school where I attended 7th and 8th grades. It was also within walking distance of the library, so it had two of the most important features for me! There was a park nearby as well, and grocery shopping was around the corner and down the street about three blocks. In fact, I remember that grocery store being robbed while I was getting the milk and bread my mom had sent me to purchase, but that’s another story.
This is not a picture of the neighborhood we lived in, but it is from a street nearby. It brings back the feeling of the neighborhood for me.
There was a nice yard. The house was on a corner, and in my memory the front yard was small. The back, however, was big enough to set up a croquet game, and to enjoy the clear air and warm sunshine of a Portland summer day. I think there was a garage, although I’m not completely clear on that.
I remember the interior layout of the house very well. What I don’t remember is how it was painted or papered. I have a vague memory of the furniture, because it followed us from house to house. We moved a lot back then, My mom never complained, that I remember, about the frequent moves, but it must have become tedious. I was happy for her when she finally was able to settle into a house she and Dad lived in for over 20 years.
Back to the inside of our little rented house in Portland.
As you walked in through the front door, you entered the living room. Most of the room was to your right. I remember windows and priscilla curtains, and the old hide-a-bed sofa that had traveled with us from Minneapolis. It was showing its age by then, and it seems to me it got a reupholstery job somewhere during that period.
If you turned right inside the front door, you were in the kitchen. I liked that kitchen. I remember white octagonal tiles, little ones, for the counter tops. I’d never seen anything quite like that before. I remember that the kitchen was large enough to accommodate more than one cook, which was a good thing while my sister and I were both learning our way around a stove and refrigerator during those years. Lots of baking happened in that kitchen, and some really good meals as well.
There was an eating area at one side of the kitchen that looked out onto the street and part of the front yard. I remember a built-in buffet that had a mirror that ran the length of it. At one point, my mom had a parakeet name Mac. He was so much fun. He used to like to entertain himself by strutting up and down the length of that mirror, chirping and showing off the whole way.
As you walked through the kitchen to the sink, which was under a window that looked out over the back yard, you turned right from the sink and went to the basement steps. I remember moving down to the basement during the summer because it was cooler down there; also, it was the only time I didn’t have to share a room with my sister. It wasn’t really a room, but I seem to remember blankets or curtains strung on wire that sectioned off a large corner of the basement.
Now, going back to the living room, if you walked straight across the room from the front door you would enter the hallway that separated my parents’ room, the bathroom, and Dad’s study from the rest of the house. Memory dims here. I don’t remember much at all about those rooms.
Just before you would get to the hallway, there was a door on the left, near the piano, that went up to the big bedroom my sister and I shared. It ran the length of the house, probably one of the largest rooms we’d ever had. Seems to me it wasn’t quite finished when we moved in–I have a vague memory of linoleum flooring being laid either just before or just after we got there. We had twin beds, and there was plenty of room for each of us to have our own area far enough from the other that we could enjoy what almost seemed like privacy. We did share a dresser and the closet. I don’t remember if there was a desk, but I do remember sitting on my bed to do homework so maybe there was no desk.
I loved Portland. We lived there for five years, between the years when I was 10 and 15. I loved the climate. It snowed now and then in the winter, but nothing like the Minnesota winters I was used to. It rained a lot, but we learned to use umbrellas and galoshes. The summers were gorgeous. There could be a rain shower in the morning, but usually the skies were clear and friendly after that. I don’t remember mosquitos. I do remember berry-picking, long lazy summer days, walks in the nearby park with a friend or two from school. It was a different era, one in which we never gave much thought to whether or not a young girl was safe walking back and forth alone the mile or so it took to get to the library.
Those were good years, and that little house on the corner is an important part of the memories I have of my junior high years.