1. karen53

    Growing up.

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and all the things that come in-between for a brainy, snippity, bookworm of a girl. I looked at my overgrown family with love but embarrassment. There were just so many of us. Brother and sisters and cousins; even a resident grandparent who took a whole room for herself.
    Everything in our small suburban tract house was old, used, repaired. The appliances lived forever, constantly resuscitated by my father, held together with rubber bands and paper clips. Yes, the washing machine would live to fight yet another day. Most of our furniture consisted of old transplants from my grandma’s house in Detroit; functional, well cared for, and so 1940s. The sofa sagged and oozed stuffing – attacked by generations of fidgety children with sticky fingers.
    I lived in a small room with my two sisters, and the occasional cousin or two, (who would be periodically shipped up to spend a summer “in the country,” needing a little of my father’s discipline). There was room for a bunk bed against the wall, and my bed under the window, with a dresser in between. Each sister had one drawer to call her own. That was all that could fit. We were always bulging at the seams.

    In my family, everyone wore hand-me-downs and homemade clothing. Even my clothes were used, and I was the oldest! My hand-me-downs came from the Avon lady’s daughter, an only child whose mother loved to dress her. I wasn’t a great fan of her style, and didn’t know the girl, but at least the clothes were new to me. I actually met the daughter in high school. She recognized the jeans I was wearing as a pair she’d thrown away two summers ago. She recognized this LOUDLY, in front of all her friends, and I shriveled inside to be caught wearing someone else’s garbage. This was before vintage was considered hip. I felt like a member of the Joad family – some Petaluma version of “The Grapes of Wrath” – envious of how much nicer and newer my friend’s homes and lives seemed.

    I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to hang out at our house, but they did. Everyone seemed to congregate in our shabby home. Little sister Linda always had a gaggle of girls around her, and brother Ray was never without at least two sidekicks. If I wanted privacy, I had to sit in my closed closet, holding a flashlight to read my books. Coming home from school I knew I would find the kitchen bursting with neighbors, laughing around the kitchen table with bottomless cups of coffee and overflowing ashtrays – sure signs that they’d been there most of the day. Every afternoon the front yard was full of neighbor kids, playing an endless game of kickball on the lawn. No one kept score and the game was put on pause only when the sun went down and supper was on the table.

    Our home was like a worn down, bustling train station; humanity coming and going, laughing and wailing, living and, sometimes, dying. I remember it embarrassing me, but I see it now as the most comfortable spot on the block. Growing up, I finally see it clearly. I was only looking at the surface, and not at the heart of the home my family created. For a smart, snippy bookworm, I had a lot of growing up to do.

    1. mcullen Post author

      Lovely. Beautiful writing. You painted a picture of a happy, welcoming family, even though the narrator wasn’t comfortable at the time, glad she realized the wealth of her childhood home and family. Gem-filled writing. Thank you very much for sharing this story.

  2. justinefos

    I loved reading your story. Yours was a fortunate family even with out a fortune. I felt as if I was visiting this wonderful place, and could hear the chaos at times. Yes, you had things in your life that made you cringe – yet, it is remembered with love Thank You for sharing your story.

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