In the driveway, out in front of the garage, there used to be a big white birch tree. Under that, when the driveway was plowed in the wintertime, there was a huuuuge pile of snow. I used to make tunnels and caves in that pile all winter long.
In the house, in the front hall, there is a closet, an L-shaped closet, with the short end of the L going underneathe the stairs to the upstairs. Once I cleaned out the suitcases and vacuum cleaner parts stored there, it made an awesome hide-away. I spent a lot of hours there, thinking, reading, planning, drawing, writing. I let friends in, sometimes, too. It was also my clubhouse for awhile.
But so was the treehouse in the big apple tree right outside the little screened in porch that my dad built for me. I guess the older kids had had a treehouse in that very same tree, but I don't remember theirs. I will always remember mine. It was so cool. I slept in it many nights, and read so many summer days away in it I can't possibly count them all. You could see the stars through the leaves if you lay on your back. I even taught my dog how to jump up into the tree and would haul her up into the treehouse with me sometimes.
Summer had a certain feel when I lived there. Summer and childhood. They felt different than summer feels now. I can't describe it, but I can still feel it. And Sundays. Sunday had a rhythm and a feel to it. Especially summer Sundays. Church, then dinner in the oven for after church. My dad read the newspaper, and napped, and watched golf on TV. My Aunt and Uncle came to visit on Sundays. Summer Sundays as a child were quiet, and long, and seemed to last ten times longer than the busier week days. But there was always The Wonderful World of Disney on at 7 pm on Sunday nights. I watched it at the neighbors with a big bowl of buttered popcorn. They raised me too.
The screened in porch off the dining room, I slept there most summer nights when I was little. A cot, a sleeping bag, and it was cool and comfortable. I could hear my parents getting up and around and ready for work inside the house, early, but I would doze on my cot and not get up for awhile after they had gone. Sometimes I slept on the deck, in the open, but the mosquitos often claimed victory those nights. The screened porch was by far the better option. And I could fall asleep watching the fireflies light up the back yard those nights, flickering in and out of the red currant bushes along the bank.
When I was older, I painted my room bright green, and then used extra paints from the basement to make a big rainbow on one wall, with two big puffy white clouds, one at either end of the rainbow. That was the room that had the closet in it that I kept my sister's Christmas present in, a kitten, that I picked up on my paper route, because my sister's cat had died, and I thought she would want a new one, but I knew the adults would tell me no, so I kept it hidden in my closet for a couple of nights until I could give it to her. My closet backed up to my parents bedroom wall, and when the kitten would scratch at the litter box, my dad could hear it, and thought it was a mouse in THEIR closet, but the secret held.
Their closet was where my mom would put my Christmas presents that I always snooped for. I always knew what I was getting for Christmas. She wasn't a very good hider of presents. As a working parent, I, too, know now she was probably too tired and too busy to be an ingeniuous hider of presents, but I forgive her.
And the last bedroom I had there, my favorite room ever, was warm, and cozy, and I painted it a dusty rose color, and my mom bought me gorgeous matching curtains which had little tiny pink and mulberry colored flowers on them. I played guitar up there, listened to John Denver over and over and over on the stereo my parents bought me for Christmas and hid in our camper one year (THAT was in ingenious hiding place!), and passed most of my highschool years living in that room. It was even better when I bought a big huge old fashioned bed at an auction for ten bucks and set it up in there. I still love every inch of that warm, cozy, retreat of a room. Looking around at its bare state now does nothing to quell the memories of those years.
My mom passed away five years ago. My father is living in the nursing home a few miles from me, now, and won't be coming home again. It's time to empty out the house. Some friends of my brothers are going to rent it temporarily, while they search for a place to live of their own. I'm ok with that, really, since I know it is better for a house to have people in it than to sit empty and fall into disrepair. I think the woman might even plant some flowers there, which would be good. But even though the house is nearly empty now, it isn't. It's full. It's SO full of memories it is hard to keep working at the mundane sometimes. I sort ties, and remember my dad wearing them to work at school. I sort my mom's jewelry, and remember her clipping on those earrings in front of the bathroom mirror while I watched her get ready for wherever she was going. I wander from room to room, touching furniture, brushing my hands over the walls, touching memories, remembering. Just being there for concentrated amounts of time has opened the floodgates of my childhood. Twenty years of my growing up happened there, in that house. The apple tree is gone, the birch, too, has been cut down, the currants don't grow anymore, the garden has been tilled under. But the pear tree is still there, still bearing fruit in the late summers, and acting as guardian to my childhood memories. My mom canned pears every fall. I can pears in the fall now, still from the same tree. Some things will never change, unless you let them. I hope some day my daughters can pears as well, no matter what tree the pears come from. And I hope, though I have no idea if it's true for them as well, or not, that they have been creating their own memories, equally as good, equally as potent, in this house here, where they have spent or will have spent the first twenty some years of their lives. Only time will tell, as it has for me. And it's been telling MEsome really good stories the past few days.