That House
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That House • Posted: Oct 06, 2014 11:30:43Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

When I was young, I began grade school near the house in the image above. I remember thinking, whenever we drove by, that that must be the kind of house "normal people" lived in. I don't think I had any concept of class or affluence back then. And, I don't think I had any disaffection for the house we lived in. But, I did have a growing suspicion that family life could be more stable and problem-free than what I, or even those in my particular neighborhood were experiencing.

For instance, there was a girl who lived three doors down from me who had a younger brother who needed steel braces to walk. He'd had polio. And the family who lived across from me, they lived in a house that wasn't completely built yet. It had tar paper for siding and two by fours for walls in some of the rooms. And one day, the empty lot next to our house, the one in which we all played baseball, was suddenly dug up. And a few days later a whole house came rolling down the street and was positioned on stilts over the hole they'd dug so that a foundation could be built for it. And, I remember, the people who moved in were always yelling and screaming at each other. And then there was the house four houses down from me, a little house set way back from the street, with a wire fence all around the front yard to keep in a big mean collie/shepherd dog. I'd have to go through that front yard to visit the boy who lived there. We both liked to play chess. But that dog would always rush at me, and bark and growl in my face if I dared move, until someone from the house would call him off and let me come in. Very scary.

By contrast, whenever I rode past that house in the picture above, everything just seemed peaceful and clean and ordered and convenient. Nothing was falling apart, or about to explode, or damaged, or missing. And no one was yelling, or crying, or screaming, or stomping around in anger. And no dog was barking or growling or tearing things up. I just kept thinking, "Wow, that must be what normal is."

But now, when I look back at that house, I see something a little bit different. It does look stable and strong and functional, rather like The Nelson's lived in on TV. But it also looks sterile, sort of outside of life. It doesn't have any tools or unfinished projects in the yard like most of my neighbors had, things like lawnmowers or motorcycles or old cars being fixed. It doesn't have any old sheds like we used to play around, bounce balls off, climb on, break windows in, or convert to club houses. It doesn't have any trees to climb or string ropes from to make a swing. It doesn't have any apple or plum trees like we had, or grape vines with big yellow and black spiders, or strawberry patches. It doesn't have any chicken coops with chickens that lay fresh eggs, or even gardens with all kinds of vegetables like carrots, corn to shuck, or sloppy tomatoes that dripped down our chins and onto our shirts. It doesn't even have any flowers to pick for your mom or tall weeds where we could hunt for snakes or catch butterflies. And mostly, it doesn't have any other kids playing in the yard. It's just stable and clean and ordered and peaceful, sort of lifeless.

I might have thought that house was like "normal" must be. But I wouldn't trade where I lived, with all its messy, but very interesting goings on, for anything in the world.

And, I do hope you feel the same way about where you grew up.

Sunday, October 31st, 2010
Des Plaines