Tuesday, March 16, 2004

A Life In Residence: Childhood

Being “home” – the grey double-split house in Newton, Massachusetts, where my parents still live – used to make me feel ten years younger, eradicating my life-since, and residual adolescent angst and rebellion kicks in inside the bodyengine at odd moments – but its less and less each year, and hardly at all, really, these last few. Some of that’s cause the place has changed up a bit, what with all the kids grown and gone. There’s new fences outside, and encroaching neighbors. My old room is now my mother’s office, and we stay in a newly furnished guest bedroom that once was my brother’s.

And thinking about the way it isn’t home anymore makes me think of how it got to be, and how I got to here.

I was born January 14, 1973, in Dekalb County Hospital just outside Atlanta, Georgia. I don’t remember it, but there are pictures. Like the one of me on the bed with a Time magazine, Nixon on the cover.

When I was still preverbal, my father got a job at Hale and Dorr, a large corporate law firm in Boston which would ultimately see him to Senior Partnership. We moved to a downstairs houseshare of flat stone and white siding in Belmont, Massachusetts that I also don’t remember. I know what it looked like on the outside because, for years, my parents would point it out as we drove by.

But the place was too small for our family as it grew. After my brother was born, we moved to a typical suburban house on a typical suburban street just down the block and across a reservoir from the local high school. Once when my father was out with the only car, a dirt brown station wagon, my mother accidentally closed the heavy wooden front door on my littlest finger, shearing it off entirely except for a scrap of fingerprint pad, and we had to take a taxi to the hospital while a policeman watched my baby brother. The photos which fill, shoebox by shoebox, what was once my parent’s downstairs linen closet tell stories of neighborhood kids running in packs like dogs on a safe street, poking their heads out of raked leaf mountains, grinning gleefully.

Near the end of second grade we moved again, this time to Newton, one of those more upscale suburbs most notable for having, supposedly, the highest concentration of Psychologists/psychiatrists in the country. I got to ride in the moving truck on the way over, and walk to public school instead of bring driven to Belmont Country Day.

The first year after we moved in they built another half-again on the house, right out towards the garage: three bedrooms and a kitchen upstairs. My brother and I shared a bedroom with a whistling, wonderfully spooky plastic-covered hole in the wall where the door used to be before they started building and an old full-sized pinball machine in the corner which we mostly used to win bubble gum from our babysitters.

When they finally finished carpeting, we moved into the lower half of the addition, three floors away from my parents – my sister moving down from a crib to her own bed and bedroom just like ours.

Unless you count summer camp bunks and that one summer when I lived in the BU dorms for their summer theater institute, I lived for the next ten years in a half-underground room with five unequal walls, sharing it occasionally with suicidal fish and pygmy hamsters, and increasingly with more books than shelves. The room was too dry and hot in winter and summer – sun and electric heat alike would trap in the underground air, and bake your lip until it split. The windowsills were flush against the ground level; once, I woke up in the middle of the night and found a raccoon’s eyes glinting just on the other side of the glass.

I loved that room. It was the farthest room in the house from everything else, and it had a basement entrance right outside the door. Though painted and scraped, my blood is still spattered on its walls.

We just got back from four days in Boston. This was the first visit, I think, where I didn’t even open the door.

Coming soon: A Life in Residence: The Transient Years

posted by boyhowdy | 9:58 PM |

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