I dreamt of my childhood home last night. Which is a funny thing to say when one actually had more than one childhood home. In fact, I lived in five different homes until the ripe age of 18 when I left my small town for the big city. But when I dream of my childhood home, it’s always the same one. The middle one where I lived from the age of about four to eleven (give or take a year). I bet my younger sisters do not have many memories of this home but it’s always where I go to when thinking of childhood.
It was a home that my parents had custom-built. A simple bungalow with the best open rec room in the basement that you ever did see. Countless birthday parties and sleepovers took place in that room. Dancing to records. Playing Barbies with our Dad. The smell of the mini kitchen that our Grandpa built out of wood and painted. Sometimes I catch a whiff of that smell and I am brought back to that room. The stairs that my youngest sister cartwheeled down while my other sister and I watched (she was fine). The desk that the same sister crawled up onto and cut herself with the pushpins from the corkboard above (she was fine). The blue plaid couches and matching chair, that would travel with us to the following two houses. The kitchen full of windows with a big table for gathering on special occasions, for doing crafts, for being a family. The first time I got my own bedroom and no longer had to share with a sister and being so damn proud of having it. I remember the goose wallpaper that I had chosen because I felt that it was mature and grown up. I remember the blind and curtains in that room. I remember one day sitting on the floor of that room and writing a list of every single person that I knew and being amazed at the world. I remember the 90210 poster that hung over my blue desk, a desk that was often cluttered with my stuff and rarely used for its true purpose. I remember my Mom teaching me how to spy out that bedroom window when there was drama across the street at the neighbours (always turn your lights out so they cannot see you from the outside). The same neighbour who stole from us while we were away on a camping trip. That feeling of being violated in your own home while being away. That same neighbour would later murder someone in Florida. The big garden in the back that I worked on with my Dad. The hedge out front where we would hide out and pretend the leaves were money. The time there was a rabid fox reported in the neighbourhood. My Grandpa came over with a watermelon that day and told us about it and for the next couple of days, I was scared that the fox would jump our fence and get our collie Danny. I remember when it was decided that Danny needed to be put down. My parents let me stay up late on that last night that we had with him and I played him the piano as the slept nearby. The feeling of sadness but also the understanding that this is life. The small woods at the end of our dead end street where we would get lost for hours until our Mom would ring the school bell to call us home for dinner. The time that it rained in our next door neighbours’ yard yet was sunny in our own. The same neighbours who had a full human skeleton in their home and who got us canaries. The 1990 recession when I heard my parents stressfully talking one night. When I proclaimed to a friend the next day that I was sad because we were now poor. Of course, we were doing better than others and everything worked out but I remember the feeling that things were not right. Oh the life that was lived in that home.
It’s funny what memories stick and what life moments happen and just float away. I don’t remember a lot from the next childhood home. Maybe because by then I was in middle school and then started high school. Maybe because the previous home was the one that really shaped me for this world.
I used to be afraid of memories. Of losing the good ones. I used to think that perhaps there was a limit to how many times we could remember something and once we had exhausted that number, they would be no more. I came up with this idea after my Grandma passed away when I was fourteen. I was worried that I would forget all of the things I remembered about her. Mostly her boisterous laugh and how she made me feel like the most important kid in the world. Somedays I would allow myself to remember one of these things, knowing that it may be the last. But also knowing that I needed that memory right then. To hold onto, even if just for that one last time.