Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Memories

I grew up in a rather large manse in Greenville, South Carolina.  There were five children (one year six) in the family and we needed the space.  It was not the largest house in town by any stretch of the imagination, but it was very large.  It was a two-story with a full basement and an unfinished attic. 

The attic was accessible only through a ladder built into the wall of the linen closet ~ well, if you wanted to you could climb the shelves of the linen closet instead of the ladder, but if Mom caught foot prints on her clean towels and sheets there was big trouble!  Once you got up there you had to walk carefully along the rafters and be sure not to step on the insulation in between, because if you did you were sure to fall through into the room below.  You could, however, peek down through the slats of the attic fan into the hallway below.  That attic fan was "fantastic".  It made a great place to put the candles during our Secret Club meetings.  You could only join the Secret Club if you dripped hot candle wax on your hand without crying.  It took me a couple of times to make that happen.  Once you had achieved that, you were allowed to write your name on the ceiling or the wall.  Did I mention that there was exposed insulation up there?  And that we had candles?  Okay then.

The upstairs was where the four bedrooms and one of the bathrooms were.  The street side of the house had Mom and Dad's room (which was also Mom's sewing room), the bathroom, and the bedroom that my middle sister and I shared for years.  Oh the drama of the shared bedroom!  The screeching and fussing.  The tape down the middle of the room.  The fight over who got more of the closet.  The fussing over whose mess was worse.  Well; you get the picture.  My brothers shared a room on the back side of the house and my oldest sister relished her position as Eldest and the benefit of a bedroom ALL. BY. HERSELF.  Except for that one year when her best friend lived with us while her family lived in North Carolina.  Which added an "interesting" element and is another story entirely.

The stairway itself was wonderful.  There was a long bannister that could be slid down (and was) (frequently).  Sheets could be dropped down for laundry, making a lovely hiding place in the downstairs hallway.  Dining room chairs could be turned upside down on the stairs and would magically become sailing ships or sometimes space rockets.  There was an incident once where one of my brothers (I won't tell you which one but he does have a PhD in Geology....) dropped a thermometer to "see if it really was unbreakable".  It wasn't.

The downstairs was perfect.  There was a dining room in the front that was big enough for a table that could ~ and often did ~ seat ten people (piano benches and small children are a great space-expander).  Adjacent to that was the "Breakfast Room" which was really Mama's office and the dog whelping room.  Well it just worked that way, that's why!  That led into the ginormous kitchen and pantry, which also led to the back porch and the steps down into the backyard.  The other side of the house had a bathroom, a den (in the back) which is where we watched our one hour of television (unless your name was Daddy and it was football season) (or unless you were sick).  There was a small fireplace in that room with a beautiful oil painting hanging over it that was painted by one of mother's grandparents.  The other side of that fireplace was the living room fireplace.  Oh, that living room!  It was huge and lovely and airy and gracious.  Over top of that fireplace was another oil painting by the same family member.  I was convinced that the artist had painted the picture in the den and then turned around and painted the scene behind him and that was the picture hanging in the living room.  Because that was how they were hung. 

Anyway, the living room was very, very large with two sets of double windows.  That was where we went right after breakfast and before school every morning to sit while we read the Bible together and had morning prayers.  Any of the neighborhood kids who rode with us to school KNEW that if they got there early they were going to listen to the Bible and were expected to pray.  Out loud.  We had a piano and it got a lot of use.  Sometimes after church on Sunday evenings, Dad gave an open invitation to anyone who wanted to come over to the house so we could have a hymn-sing.  The living room was always full with the overflow into the dining room and even onto the stairs in the hallway and we would sing for what felt like hours.  Those were little glimpses of glory.

There was also a screened porch on the side of the house off from the den and the living room.  We kept a porch swing going out there, and stored our bikes when we weren't out racing them. 

The hallway was perfect on rainy days or in the cold of winter.  We would strap on our roller skates and skate from the front door to the hall closet at the end of the hall, back and forth until Mom heard us and chased us down to the basement.  We certainly kept her busy refinishing those hardwood floors.

The basement was an amazing area.  When my oldest brother got to the age of needing his own space, he moved down there but it was an open area with a concrete floor and large support pillars.  You could skate down there, grab hold of one of the support pillars, and whip around until you got dizzy.  The area under the living room was the ping-pong table nook (and sometimes the electric train station).  There was a small area under the front porch where we stored canned goods.  For some reason I was convinced that this had once upon a time been an entrance to a tunnel for the underground railroad.  Even though the house was built in the 1920s.  Go figure.  The laundry room was under the kitchen and was even bigger than the kitchen was.  It was fun on linen laundry day because with six beds' worth of linens, there were PILES of sheets to hide in.

We moved when I was twelve and the two oldest were in college.  We would go back occasionally to visit friends and even when we were all in our 20s we would talk about the fact that while most childhood homes shrink over the years, this one had not.

Last month my oldest brother and his wife went back to Greenville for their high school reunion.  I don't know why in the world they want to tell people it was their fortieth; there is no way they are old enough to have graduated from high school forty years ago  (especially since that means Mr. Marvelous' fortieth reunion is looming).  While they were there, they drove down our old street and stopped to take a picture of the old house.  We were all flabbergasted.  Apparently the family of the lady who lived next door bought about half of our old front yard!  And when they did, they remodeled the house, making it smaller on the side.  The living room went from two sets of double windows to only one.  I could have been mistaken about the dining room; there may have only been one set of double windows to begin with, (although my parent's room above the dining room definitely had two sets), but I am sure that the living room was bigger.  Think about all those people who sat there during our hymn sings!  Oh well.  It's still a beautiful house.

From the left side; porch, living room, dining room.  The sidewalk wasn't that fancy when we lived there

And the memories are precious!

No comments: