When you’re a kid and growing up, the world is such a different place.
Your world is so small, yet it seems so big. Instead of worrying about the latest bad news from the TV or a website, your biggest concerns had to do with when the cartoons came on TV or who else was going to be invited to your friend Mike’s birthday party. Your most valuable possession could have been something as simple as a bike or a baseball card.
Over the weekend, I got to go home again, to the place my parents raised me in Torrance, California. Mom is the only one left and doing fine, thank you, as we helped her celebrate her 94th birthday. She is about as timeless as it gets, looking the same as she has as long as I can remember.
Oh, we have home movies of those growing up years, when she embraced the fashions of the day. There was the “I love Lucy” look, the beehive hair style of the Kennedy years and so on. But mom has been mom from my teen years on.
Now, the house–there are some changes. What used to be my bedroom has been rebranded “the den.” I never questioned way we called their pantry area “the service porch”, but that’s what everyone in the family knew that area as. What was my sisters’ room has become the guest room.
Outside, that same red cinder block wall around their property still stands, although with a few cracks here and there. I remember dad building the cover for the deck and, as trends went in the 1960s, putting in a cement deck on the lower patio, with special cement where you added colors. It looked good for a while, but in time, it began to crack and was replaced with red brick.
But let’s go back to the den, formerly known as my room. It was my headquarters from awareness all the way until I left home at 17 to head north to the University of Washington. It was the room where I rode out the big earthquake of 1971. (I actually was asleep and thought it was my mom waking me up for school. But when I looked up, she wasn’t there. By that time, it was over.) I don’t know how I did it, but during my teens, I managed to sneak out my bedroom window, go visit my girlfriend in the middle of the night across the street, and return home. Two out of the three times, I didn’t get caught.
Literally, that little home in Torrance, all 1200 square feet of it, purchased back in the early 1950s for just under $12,000, was the center of my world. It was where my Aunt Jan and Uncle Bob showed up one afternoon in tears, because my grandmother had just passed away. In the living room, many pre-event pictures were taken with me in a tux, as I prepared to head off to one of the formal high school dances.
And the kitchen. Well, that was mom territory. If you went in to do something, she’d watch you like a hawk to make sure you were treating her dominion with respect. That was where she made food magic happen. If you were pouring a soda out of a 2-liter bottle, without missing a beat she’d say, “Don’t plop.” In the early years of my life, it was the time when the husband worked, the wife stayed at home to put her farm smarts to work and make the salary of an airline ground mechanic pay all the bills and feed a family of five. Coupons were clipped, S&H green stamps were saved, and national brands never saw our cupboards.
Yeah, a lot happened in that house and I am so thankful I could be there for just shy of 18 years. So whenever I go back, you’ll see me just sit there and stare a lot at the many things that trigger one memory after the other. I did that quite a bit during this last visit.
Especially this time, it was really, really nice to go home again.