Monthly Archives: January 2014

Old Writing: Part 5::Memories of a Mountain Street Apartment

The following bit of writing was the piece that made me realize I could actually write. It was written for my Freshman college creative writing course and the teacher wrote “A very effective reminiscence. Well detailed writing with strong focus.” He also asked me to share it aloud with my fellow students, some of whom said it made them want to cry. I could tell that my classmates really liked the story and it made me feel proud. It is not 100% accurate — I actually lived on Chapel Street in Elgin just after I was born, but everything else rings true.

Memories of a Mountain Street Apartment

Google Street View of 324 Mountain Street
Google Street View of 324 Mountain Street

The first five years of my life were spent at 324 Mountain Street — the upper floor of a two-story, green and white wooden apartment house with a screened-in front porch. Especially memorable is the small pink room where I slept. I used to place all my stuffed animals on either side of me when I went to bed, alternating them each night which one would sleep next to me so no one’s feelings would be hurt.

Once I was playing with my mother’s friend’s son, Mike, while our mothers gossiped in the kitchen, which was on the other side of the wall from my room. I had acquired two new cans of Play-Doh and we were seated at the little wooden table with matching chairs, making red and blue Play-Doh cookies. We shaped them into round, flat disks and put them into the make-believe oven to bake. When they were “done” we would pretend to eat them. But Mike, being two years my junior, thinking that these were real cookies popped a red blob of Play-Doh into his mouth. I screamed, bringing both mothers into my room. A second scream and Mike was being held upside down to extract the Play-Doh from his mouth. I was happy when the mass of Play-Doh and saliva was on the table, not because I was particularly worried about Mike, but because I was glad my Play-Doh was safe.

Another memory of that house was my portable, striped red, white and blue three-speed phonograph. I had about two dozen yellow 78s from such shows as The Mickey Mouse Club and various Walt Disney movies. I used to sit, all day, listening to both sides of each recording, sometimes making the voices slow down so they sounded like Alfred Hitchcock. Many of these records are still in my possession and, scratched up as they may be, I still have fun listening to the sounds of my childhood.

Finally, I remember our black Cocker Spaniel, Archie. He had black curly ears that looked like he had just been given a permanent and a long black tail that, along with his ears, flip-flopped as he ran, which he seemed to be always doing — up and down the back steps and around the back yard — his ears and tail, flying in the wind. I can still picture my father and me chasing Archie and laughing all the while. Archie’s special trick was to run down the long flight of stairs to pick up the mail and paper and deposit it at my father’s chair. Once, when I was sick, a free sample of pink Princess Dial soap was left by the mailman, and Archie, with a little coaching from my father, brought it to me. I was positive Archie did it to make me feel better. One afternoon I heard my mother calling Archie to come up the back steps. He was sitting at the bottom with large frightened eyes, whining, unable to climb the stairs. My mother wrapped him in his old tattered blanket and we, along with my father, drove to an animal doctor. My mother and I waited in our red Buick while my father and Archie disappeared into the brick building. A while later, my father re-appeared, carrying Archie’s blanket, but no Archie. I was later told that Archie had hurt his back and had been put to sleep so he wouldn’t suffer. I waited a long time for Archie to wake up again so we could play and he could get the mail and paper, but I learned, too soon, that when doctors put animals to sleep they don’t ever wake up.

Through the five years of my life at 324 Mountain Street many incidents occurred, some vivid, others not so clear and others practically faded away or completely gone. Some memories are happy, others sad and some just memories. Childhood is the most impressionable time of life. Memories, such as the ones mentioned here will be with me all of my life.

The Angel and the Duckling: A Holiday Story (okay, not really)

There was a time when I had very few ornaments. Now we have far too many to actually put on a Christmas tree, but there are two that I’ve had since I was a child that always grace the tree and will always do so as long as I have the strength to decorate a tree. They are also the ugliest ornaments we own. And truth be told, one is not really an ornament.

ugly angel ornament
The Christmas Tree Fairy (click to get a good look at what is left of her rash-inducing hair)

The first ornament was, at one time, the angel that sat on top of the tree when I was a child. I loved that angel. It was beautiful. It had the softest, whitest hair I’d ever seen. To me it was Christmas — or the promise of Christmas.

One year my parents gave into my begging to take the angel to bed with me. I held her tight and slept with her all night long. In the morning I awoke to a bright red itching rash on my face, neck and arms. At first my parents didn’t know what was wrong, but eventually figured it out. The beautiful angel’s hair was made of spun glass and while I slept, bits of it must have broken off and pierced my skin, leaving the rash.

ugly duck decoration
Kevin’s first gift to me. Don’t bother clicking — it doesn’t get any better looking at a large size.

I still loved the angel, though, but never asked to take it to bed with me again. As the years went by the angel lost much of its beauty, including most of its hair and both wings. When I moved out on my own my mother gave me the angel for my tree and we always put her near the top of the tree just before we add the Christmas Fairy to the very top.

The second ugly ornament was, at one time, a fluffy duck with googly eyes. It was the first thing my brother ever gave me. He didn’t know he gave it to me because he’d just been born. My father picked it up in the hospital gift shop so I could have a present from my baby brother. I must have played with it a lot through the years, it must have meant a lot to me or why else would I have kept it once the eyes fell off and the bill wore away?

This ugly ducking is always one of the first decorations on our Christmas tree each year and, like the rash-giving angel, will continue to be placed on the tree for as long as I am around.

I love most of my Christmas decorations, but these two will always have a special place in my heart.