I don’t know how it happened that I still have a photograph of my husband, Terry. I no longer have the husband! In fact, I had two to choose from, both taken while he was sitting in this same chair (a beautiful, oak Craftsman style rocker with leather seat and back that his mother found at a sale and meticulously refinished for him), in the downstairs Court Street apartment. They were taken on two different days. I set aside the second one because his socks were dirty, there was visible debris on the floor and the dog wasn’t in the picture.
I used to have several photos from this apartment. Fritz was a very cute dog, and I took lots of snapshots. All gone now. There was one photo of me, in a floor length purple bathrobe that accentuated the fact that I was very pregnant, that was taken from one end of the apartment while I was standing at the other. It gave a much better idea of the architecture and layout. It has disappeared. There were photos of my new baby, Jennifer, as this is where we lived when she was born, and until she was about five months old. They have migrated, over the years, into the albums or collections of others. So this is it, one photo that shows very little of the downstairs apartment where it was taken.
This apartment was not the apartment directly below us when we lived in the upstairs apartment. It was the ground floor of the other duplex apartment, when the building had been a duplex. Now, divided into four apartments, the upstairs units each resembled bedrooms off a hallway; the downstairs units looked like the public living spaces. Our address was 205A Court Street. The apartment was on the corner of Court and Horton Streets, so – unlike any of the other units in the same building – we had a back door that led to our own driveway off Horton Street.
Wooden steps with a rickety rail led from the driveway up to the back door. Entering that way (which we always did, for reasons that will soon be clear), the kitchen presented itself. It was a big room, with cabinets and appliances lining the side walls. There was room for my little table and chairs in the center of the room. Straight ahead, in line with the back door, was a doorway leading to our living room. My husband kept a chin-up bar, a sturdy tension rod, in that doorway for exercise.
When this building was new, the center room would have been a formal dining room. Large windows lined the wall on the right. On the left, a door at the rear revealed a deep closet in the space under the stairs. Another door, toward the front, was now sealed. That would have led to the upstairs bedrooms.
An eight-foot-wide archway led from that room into what had once been the living room, and that we used as the bedroom. A door on the left led to the large porch that all of the apartments shared. In the front corner, a small bathroom had been installed. A huge picture window looked out onto Court Street. A transom window above it featured a large, etched floral design.
Once we moved in, the only ones that came to the front door were strangers, Jehovah’s Witnesses or people who had never visited before. Everyone else knew to go to the back.
We painted the living room a sunny yellow and hung gold curtains to offer some privacy for the bedroom. We set up crib and bassinet for the baby we were expecting, and tried our best to fill the large rooms with our meager furnishings. We celebrated our first Christmas there. We first brought our baby girl home there. I started reading through recipes and having kitchen successes there, including the best blueberry pie ever, and some memorable pots of soup.
My friend Linda and her husband, Darrell, visited us often. Now that we were both married, and both either expecting a baby or a new mother, we had more in common than we’d had in years. We had meals together and played a lot of games. Darrell was a sore loser, so the challenge was often to find a game he could win at. One day, we were visiting while waiting for my husband to come home from work. Terry walked in the back door, put down his lunch bucket, grabbed onto the chin-up bar and (the show off!) swung himself up so that his body was in a straight line, parallel to, but about six feet off the floor. Suddenly, the woodwork gave away, the tension bar let go and my husband dropped six feet onto the floor. Of course, we burst out laughing. Of course, he writhed in pain and cursed us all, which only drove us to more fits of uncontrollable laughter. Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt, because we laughed first, and asked that question later.
Terry’s uncle moved with us, from the upstairs to the downstairs apartment, but I was cranky about it, and he soon moved on. My father-in-law, Jack, would often stop in the mornings for coffee, to visit with me while I bathed and dressed the baby. My sister Sheila stopped in one day with her friend Debbie. They were thinking they could hang out and skip school at my house. I gave them a lecture, my husband dropped them off at school, and that was the end of my little sister thinking I was going to be her accomplice. I was a grown-up, after all, with my own apartment, a husband, a baby and a dog…all at not quite twenty years old.
Before my baby was six months old, we moved from this apartment into our first house.