The house that I lived in when I was 12 years old was an unremarkable brick suburban ranch home with some truly impressive trees in the yard. Full-grown maples marked the edges of the property, but the trees couldn’t have been more different. The one to the south had darker, coarser bark, and the lowest branches were 8 feet in the air. The one to the north had a silvery trunk and a child of 12 could easily swing up into the branches. Just to one side of the path that led to the front door, there was a huge, conical juniper, probably 15 feet in diameter at its base and 25 feet tall. Another, smaller juniper flanked the front door.
The brick of the house was tan, studded with decorative bricks that jutted out in a pattern. It had a carport, bordered by a chain-link fence threaded with white metal strips. The carport led through to an expansive back yard with a rosebush in every corner, a towering honey locust, a flowering crabapple, and a variety of lilac bushes along the back fence. Well, by the time I was 12, there was only one, violet lilac bush. The only official pet I had in childhood, my dog from when I was 9, ate the 7-foot tall white one that had been its neighbor.
Inside, every room was a palimpsest. My parents had brought me home from the hospital to this house, so there was the room that had been my nursery (now the office), the room that had belonged to each of my tween-aged brothers when I was born (my present day bedroom, the sewing room, and the guest room, since they were all out of the house by the time we moved back when I was almost 9.) Like a town you’ve lived in forever, I knew how to navigate when my mom told me to take something to the nursery that hadn’t been there in 10 years. I knew the tale of the creaky board in the hall that always alerted distract-able me to the presence of a big brother when she’d tried to get me to sleep as a baby.
The coolest thing inside the house was the basement. There were two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a laundry room down there (and no end of spiders). A water heater and furnace I tried not to think much about. At 12, I was just past the point that I’d pass them, hugging the wall and run up the stairs, sure that I was being followed by something terrible, fast on my heels. But the best thing was the family room. It ran the entire length of the house, north to south. It was tiled with these decorative tiles. My oldest niece and nephew, small children at the time, could ride their tricycle with passenger compartment from one end to the other, as fast as their toddler legs could pedal. I could cartwheel and round-off from end to end without getting in trouble. On one end, we kept a ping pong table and a spare fridge. In the middle was my parents’ bar and stereo. On the near end, a TV. I pretty much lived down there, after school during the winter.