As I think about this writing challenge about our earliest memories of our house, serenity and sadness fight for control of my emotions. I don’t know if these memories are all from one day, or if they’re melded together from the whole pre-schooldays experience. I don’t even know if these memories are all from the same house, we moved so much. Whatever the case may be, they’re mostly good memories of days gone by.
It was a dark house . . . small and grey, and black in places where the tarpaper peeked through holes where siding used to be. There was a round light fixture on the ceiling that didn’t work, but we had a big glass lamp filled with clear oil. That was our light at night; we used it to get from the kitchen to the bedroom and anywhere else we wanted to go. I don’t have a lot of memories of that house, only a snatch here and there.
It’s summer, the door is open, and my mother is sweeping the dirt floor. I’m fascinated by that; how does she keep from sweeping the whole floor away? She sprinkles water on the floor first – to settle the dust, she tells me. I wonder why she bothers to sweep dirt, but after she’s done, the floor feels nice and smooth to my bare feet. That dirt is as hard as the asphalt on the road to town, unless I spill my water again. But Mother doesn’t get upset – she just sweeps some dirt on top of the spill, and when it’s dry she sweeps it out the door to the yard.
There must be more than one room to this house, but I only remember the kitchen. I always seem to be heading out that kitchen door to play. The kitchen is shadowy; the windows are small and the ceiling is low. In one corner is a table and a bench. My brothers and I sit on that bench behind the table. Mother and Dad have chairs that look huge to me; I like to crawl up in Mother’s chair and pretend I’m a baby in a high chair. But Timmy is in the real high chair, the one someone gave us. Mother says we’ve all used it, and now it’s little Timmy’s turn. I still want to sit in it and be the baby for awhile longer, but Dad laughs at me and tells me to grow up and stop acting like a baby. I’m four years old, not two, he reminds me again. I won’t let him see me cry. I have a favorite spot in the kitchen, right behind the big stove in the corner, where I like to hide when he says mean things to me. I can fit in there and no one can see me behind the wood bin.
It’s a noisy house, with lots of screaming and crying and yelling. The other kids make a lot of noise too! There are seven of us in the house: me, my parents, two of my older brothers (one is living with my grandmother, but I don’t know why), my little brother, and my new baby sister. She’s Mother’s favorite, I suspect. My big brother says that every time there’s a new baby, it becomes Mother’s favorite. I don’t remember being the favorite, but before this new baby came along, John (I call him Don-Don because I can’t say John) always teased me about being Mother’s pet because I was the only girl. He can’t say that any more.
There’s a strange lady in the house today; I don’t know what she wants, but she’s smiling at me and trying to talk to me. She looks like she doesn’t really want to talk to me but feels like she has to. I bet it’s because I’m staring at her, wondering what makes her clothes smell like flowers, and why she doesn’t want a piece of the chicken I’m eating. She doesn’t look like she likes chicken. I don’t think she likes our house, or she wouldn’t look so unhappy when she thinks I’m not looking.
Outside I go! The yard is my favorite part of this place. It has no grass right in front of the house, just lots of dirt that is great for drawing in, and for making little roads, and for mud pies. Mother showed me how to draw hopscotch, and I play that by myself for awhile, until I get tired of it and go try to play marbles with my big brothers. They won’t let me play, but I can watch. Don-Don gets mad when he loses his marbles. Ha Ha!! I laugh at him and run before he can catch me.
Well, folks, these are my earliest memories. What do you remember from your childhood?