Where I Grew Up

 Since moving back to Wisconsin a little more than a year ago, I have driven by the place where I spent most of my childhood. 

I never stopped though, until last week.

It was a beautiful day and I wanted to "capture" it with my digital camera.

After parking the car and walking toward the sidewalk, I took my first shot.  A woman who had been mowing the lawn asked if she could help me.  I said no, I was just taking pictures of my old home.

She and her husband had bought it from my parents in 1993 and lived there ever since.  Their children have now grown.

It looks pretty much the same.  My parents put on the green aluminum siding not long after we moved in and had it re-roofed.  There were some old trees out front that died away and were removed, but it doesn't take much imagination to remember it as home.

We moved in the summer before I started third grade at St. Paul Lutheran School.  The school was on the same block.  I could get there walking around the block, or if time was tight, I might slide under the fence (through a ditch of sorts created by the previous owner's dogs digging) or climb over the top (careful not to get caught on the sharp tops of the chain link).

My bedroom was on the second floor.  To the right as you look at the picture, just above the window to our dining room that juts out just a bit.  On warm summer nights, I would sometimes take out the screen of my window and sit on the bit of roof, watching cars pass and walkers stroll by; and sometimes talk or watch the neightbors next door.

Upstairs, on the third floor, was my Dad's den in the turret (the round, silo-looking thing in the front) and the back half of it was where I had a permanent location for my toy N-gauge train and lots of shelves for Matchbox and Hot Wheels and Tonka trucks.  There were spots for collections of rocks, shells, and bottle caps.  There was a Nerf hoop hanging at either end of the room for one on one battles.

This was also the place I was sent to practice if I had lines to speak in a grade school program at Christmas.  After shutting the door, I would go to the top of the stairs and recite - with the idea my parents sitting on the first floor could clearly hear me.  It sounds strange, I'll give you that, but it worked.

This is where I shoveled alongside my Dad on many snowy mornings before breakfast.  If it snowed during the day, I loved to shovel after school to clear the basketball "court" in front of the garage and clean all the snow as a surprise before he got home from work. 

It's also where I cut the grass starting not long after we moved in.  Since I couldn't handle the heavy gas mower too well, my folks bought an electric 22" Black and Decker mower.  It took 250 feet of cord to reach the back of our yard from the electric outlet in the garage.  Back and forth and up and down - if the grass wasn't heavy or too wet - I might finish in two hours; sometimes it could take three.

Before my folks sold the house, they sold most of the back yard at a nominal cost to St. Paul's.  It's now part of the school's playground.  I walked back there for the first time in a long time aweek ago, since it wasn't my yard - thinking about the tree I climbed and how heavy the weeds were in the area we called the "woods."  The woods at that time wasn't lawn at all - mostly left wild with some paths cut into the growth.  Over time, I would cut all of it down every other week so when we played baseball in the backyard we could find the ball easier than tromping through the weeds.

That backyard hosted baseball and football for us.  The neighbors and some other friends would come over to what I liked to call, "Stump Weed Memorial Stadium."  Touch and tackle football, baseball, games of 500 - hotbox - and "get the guy with the football" occupied us through almost all four seasons until the snow became too deep.

I didn't go inside when I stopped a week ago.  I didn't ask, and it wasn't offered.  That's OK - I know exactly how the house looks and which steps to watch when creeping in late at night so they wouldn't creak and announce my return.  It's all very clear when I think back to those years and simply close my eyes.

This picture (above left) was taken below the tree you see above and to the right, if you look carefully you can see the house.  Its light green, you can see it below the green leaves hanging the furthest to the left from the fence.  It is hard to capture in a picture, but it give you a sense how deep our yard went.