Tag Archives: Hunt Road

Before I Move On…

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Back row, left to right: Cheryl, Sheila, Ted, Cindy, Brenda Front row, left to right: Nita, Robin, David, Amy

 

 

I’ve had dozens of addresses in my life so far. That is dozens of writing prompts, at my fingertips…just as soon as I leave Hunt Road. And I will. I have thought I was done with it, but then realized I wasn’t quite ready to go. There’s no sense in moving on until I’m finished here.
The house is wrapped in memories. I remember springtime, when it was warm enough to leave the big door open. Mom would gather us together, point out the hole in the screen, explain how we had to be careful to keep it blocked so bugs couldn’t get in, and then ceremoniously place a cotton ball in the hole. I remember summer baseball games in the backyard when, between our family, Brad, and Aunt Margaret’s family, we had a whole team! Sleepovers, pajama parties, sneaking out at night to meet our boyfriends…and in the blink of an eye we were grown and gone.

Back, though, for Sunday dinners often, and for holidays whenever possible. I have photos of my baby Jennifer and her cousin Alan each in one of the stainless steel sinks in the kitchen. When my youngest, Kate, had her first baby, we stopped at Mom and Dad’s on the way home from the hospital. Dad got tears in his eyes when Kate put Michael in his arms. He said, “It’s been a long time since I’ve held one this fresh!
I can’t leave Hunt Road, though, without bringing it up to the present. A few years ago, the old house was especially busy with visitors. My mother was dying, and we all wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. My sister Sheila, who was staying there to help care for Mom, died unexpectedly. That brought all of us together at once, to the house we’d grown up in, to mourn our sister’s passing, and to be with our mother, to make her as comfortable as we could, at the end of her life, in her own home. It was an awful time, but filled with blessings and joy, too. I cherish the memory of that hard time there; it changed me forever.
My brother, Ted, has moved in to the house on Hunt Road with his small family. He keeps a nice – though manageable – garden. He sometimes has good conversations with Dad, in the early morning hours. I understand that; I hear Dad’s voice, too, though he’s been gone for many years. The last time I stopped, Ted was going over the grounds with a metal detector. I’d bet there are some real treasures to be found there.

If memories are treasures, I’m absolutely sure of it!

More Building On…

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looking toward the house – kitchen side – from the newly plowed garden

There were more additions to the house over the years.

The back door soon led to the “back room” instead of the back yard. It was laundry room, guest room, extra dining space, play room and party room. For a while, it was where we set up the Christmas tree. It held a large freezer, an extra refrigerator, washer, dryer, a big sink, the round clothes-folding table that is now my dining room table, and Grandpa Ted’s roll top desk (until it caught fire one Christmas Eve, and had to be dragged outside). It had an old TV and a pull-out couch that served as a bed for many wayward individuals, and that we used to crowd onto late on Friday nights to watch scary movies. There was a big metal cabinet in the back room that held winter hats and gloves, board games and puzzles. There was a toy box back there when my daughters were small. For a while, there was a wood stove where Dad would simmer soup all day. There was a door to the outside dead center on either side of the room, and each door led to a large cement porch. A window on the back wall looked out over the yard and to the field beyond.

In time, the utility room became a second full bathroom with a sink, stool and shower sharing space with the large furnace, and the shelves and cupboards of canned goods.

Before too long, we lost the sidewalk and the pink cement step. We also lost the front door and the front windows in master bedroom and living room, as Dad added a closed in porch that spanned the entire front of the house. It’s roof extended over the front wall of the kitchen, creating shade where the sun had always poured in. It was a long, narrow room with windows all around. Mom’s houseplants thrived there. We used it for wedding showers, baby showers and other parties, and for extra dining space sometimes. That became the room for the Christmas tree. Brenda and Keith got married in that room. Twenty-five years later, we had my daughter Kate’s baby shower there. Those are only two examples of many gatherings held in that porch room.

Dad eventually bought the property next to us, where he’d been gardening for so many years. He put up a garage on that side of the house. Dick Burris poured the cement for it. Dad moved the wood stove to the garage, and simmered his soups and stews out there. He also kept chickens in cages in the garage, for a while.

Play houses and storage sheds and chicken houses peppered the back yard. Because Brenda and Keith had their wedding and reception at home, Dad built a large dance floor in the back yard for the occasion. It was later used as the foundation for another structure. The garage was put up, I think, to accommodate another wedding party, but I can’t remember if it was Sheila’s or Cheryl’s…or maybe someone else entirely.

That’s just about all of the adding-on and building, except for incidentals.

 

 

 

More of Hunt Road

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Ted, Cindy, Sheila, Brenda and Laddie, in the front yard with the grandparents house in the background.

As much as the grandparents house felt like an extension – a quieter, calmer, more accepting extension – of our own home, it was separate.

My Grandpa Ted died when I was six. Visits were different then. Sometimes Grandma would come to our house to talk to Mom. She wore slacks, with an ironed crease down the center of each leg. She dyed her hair, and carried a pack of cigarettes. She would give each of us a double pop-sicle, and tell us to take it outside to eat it. Then they could talk. We could still stop in to visit at her house, and were welcomed most of the time.

We could play in her yard outside. We could go to see the rabbits, in cages that were stacked up the side of the garage. We could see the brand new hairless pink baby bunnies, and pick our favorites of the big ones, based on color, length and softness or fur, and friendliness. We could pet her Beagle. My grandmother had named him “Sputnik.” When I asked what that meant, she laughed. “It’s Russian;” she said, “it means ‘out of this world!'” She got another new dog, a chihuahua. His name was Pancho Villa.

Before I turned ten years old, my grandmother had also died. That changed our world completely.

To our household, we brought in my grandmother’s everyday dishes and her special occasion dishes, her full set of matching silverware, frosted iced tea glasses picked up as souvenirs from vacation spots all over Michigan, a tiny, engraved, silver cup and spoon that had been hers when she was a baby, a roll-top desk that had belonged to my grandfather, many suitcases and purses, books and bookcases, and a car. We had a telephone installed for the first time, since Grandma would no longer be there to take telephone calls and messages, or run next door to tell us.

As young children, it was like a roller coaster ride: one minute we were thrilled at our new car, the telephone, the dishes…the next minute remembering the reasons for the windfall, and that our grandmother was no longer with us. As for my mother, at not quite thirty years old, she had lost both her parents. She had no brothers or sisters. She had a husband that worked long hours, and seven small children at home.

My parents rented the house next door. I can’t recall all the tenants. I think I remember one woman renter, followed by a couple men. One was a man who drove a beer truck. He had a skin disease, and was told by his doctor to sunbathe in the nude. My Dad built a partition of cedar poles and woven metal flashing to give him privacy, and we were told to stay out of that yard.

Later, my Aunt Margaret moved in, with her eight children. The upstairs became a loft bedroom for her four boys: Barry, Kim, Bobby and Greg. Three of the girls, Shirley, Gail and Mary Jean, shared one small bedroom; the baby, Joannie, shared the other bedroom with her Mom.

Dad built an addition off the back of that house, then, for a laundry room and a little extra space. He’d been regularly adding on to our home, as well. Our family was expanding; Dad added gardens and livestock as well as rooms. That will have to wait for another day!

…and More

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Cindy, Ted and Brenda in the living room, in front of the door leading to the old kitchen

Before Dad started the big project that would become our new kitchen, he had already been remodeling the house. He had already closed off a portion of the living room, on the right side, to create a second bedroom. That became the master bedroom.

The small bedroom in back, original to the house, became mine and Brenda’s, where we slept in matching twin beds with gray vinyl headboards. Then it was ours plus Ted’s, when his big, “two-year” crib was moved in. That was when Sheila and then Cheryl, too, were sharing the other bedroom with Mom and Dad. When Cheryl outgrew the bassinet, there were two little cribs in that small room along with double bed, dresser and cedar chest. When Nita was born, Ted was moved into a big bed, Sheila was moved to the big crib in the back bedroom, Cheryl and her small crib were moved in there, too…and Brenda and I were moved upstairs.

The upstairs consisted of two large bedrooms. Dad was afraid of fire, so neither bedroom was given a door. Over the years we hung drapes over the openings, and argued for doors to no avail. If we mentioned privacy, we were told we didn’t need it, or that we should just respect each others privacy. If we’d had doors, they wouldn’t lock, anyway. Ever since Brenda – as a toddler – had wheeled her baby carriage into the bathroom and locked the door behind her, causing Mom to have to stand outside on a bench talking to her through the window until Dad could be reached to come home from work to take the door off the hinges to save her, none of our inside doors locked.

Straight ahead at the top of the stairs was a simple, square room with a closet. The ceiling was made out of tiles of wood, with the grain going first one direction, then the other. The windows looked over to the grandparent’s house. Around the corner to the right was an L-shaped room with deep shelves built in over the stairwell. The closet led to the attic space under the eaves. The windows looked over the flat kitchen roof, to the garden, the parking lot, the Lake Inn, and Lake Nepessing beyond. That was our bedroom.

It was scary, at first, to be so far away from the hub of the family. Turning off the closet light caused moments of panic, as we rushed from the pull cord to the bed in the dark. We devised a way to link metal hangars together, to form a long chain. One end, we’d hook into the light cord; the other end, we’d bring carefully across the room with us, get into bed, then pull. The light would go off, the links of hangars would fall apart and drop to the floor in a loud, clanging heap, Mom would shout up the stairs for us to keep it down and, giggling, we’d settle in to bed.

I learned quickly to enjoy the quiet and calm of the upstairs. I would sit on the top, deep shelf, away from the fray, with a book for company. I would take a tablet, a doll and a flashlight to the very farthest point of the attic, under the eaves, to sit by myself to write. We’d make imaginary lines on walls and floor, to create separate spaces.

As the little girls moved in upstairs, we helped plan and decorate their room and rearrange their furniture.  Visits to our room were special, and only allowed rarely. Eventually, Sheila, Cheryl, Nita, Robin and Amy all made their way upstairs. A half bath was installed upstairs, to the left of the landing. The little bedroom downstairs, where we had all taken a turn, was shared by Ted and David for the rest of the time that I lived at home.

As the family had grown, so had the rest of the house…

 

Continuing…

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Cindy and Brenda, Christmas morning, in front of the partition to the unfinished new kitchen.

My father had built a sweet little house, which his ever-growing family had outgrown in no time.

Before I was three years old, Dad had started the first addition, which was a large, flat-roofed kitchen, off the left side of the house. I remember being allowed in there when he working. As long as we behaved, Brenda and I could slide across the big expanse of floor, smell the fresh-cut wood, stand ready to hand tools or nails to Dad when he needed them.

Eventually, it was finished. A wide archway led from the living room to the kitchen, where the dining space presented itself first. A picture window in the front gave a perfect view of Lake Nepessing on the other side of the road, and created an ideal spot to show off our Christmas tree at holiday time. Windows on the far side offered a view of the garden and field beside our house, the black shed, two little cottages (one of which my mother was born in), the parking lot and – across from that – the Lake Inn, with its sign in cursive pink neon letters.

The refrigerator was framed in, with enough space on top to house Mom’s radio, on the far wall just past the side windows. Cabinets went all the way to the ceiling. The counters were all downsized to suit my mother’s “four foot, seven and a half inch” height. The sink – very modern looking in stainless steel with chrome faucets – was placed on the diagonal, with windows on either wall meeting in the corner, creating a little nook where Mom kept plants and religious statues. Around the corner on the back wall, a shiny electric range top had a strong fan above it to pull out smoke and kitchen odors. Cupboards underneath held stacks of pans. More drawers below and cupboards above continued across the back. Finally, a built in oven with a giant drawer below it and a huge cupboard above finished off the kitchen space.

Every cupboard and drawer were made by hand, painted palest gray, set off by shiny red trim, and finished with bright chrome handles. The counter top was deep red linoleum. The floor was a checkered pattern in red, black and white. The light fixtures were modern circular fluorescent bulbs. There was a slight pause, before the light came on. When we flipped the switch, we’d look with bright eyes at each other and say, “wait for it…” just as our mother had when she first showed them to us.

A doorway led to what was the old kitchen. Now, it was a hallway to the back door, a utility room with the furnace and many shelves for canned goods, and a stairway leading up. The bedrooms, though, will have to wait…

The House on Hunt Road

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Cindy and Brenda, 1952

Though the property was a wedding gift to my parents from my mother’s parents, and my father started work on it right away, the house was not ready a year later, when Brenda was born. She lived, for a while, with my parents in an apartment not far away. By the time I was born a year after Brenda, the family was in their home. My father built it, and continued building it for all of his life.

First, it was square, with a pitch to the roof so steep “it could split a raindrop,” according to my Aunt Katie. From the driveway to the front door, the sidewalk ran parallel to the house, then made a right turn and went straight to the large pink block of cement that was our front step. The blade of a hoe was embedded in that step, beside the door, to use as a boot scraper. I don’t remember a single injury involving that boot scraper, though we were accident prone children and managed to hurt ourselves on things that appeared much less dangerous!

In the bit of lawn that the sidewalk enclosed between driveway and house, there was a welded metal planter. It was a simple rectangular box, with corners of L-shaped steel that extended down to form legs. The box was white with red trim, and bold red numbers were painted on the front, with our address: 3678. I don’t know who made it, or where it came from, or even who first painted it. In later years, when Patsy “Doney” came to stay with us for weeks every year, to give our rooms a fresh coat of paint, he’d carefully repaint the planter and renew the numbers in bright red. It has been planted with petunias, marigolds, vines and tomatoes over the years. It has sometimes grown up in weeds. Colors changed from red and white to black and white, but it has endured. I think it is still sitting in the front of that house, all these years later.

The original house, as I said, was a square. The front door was in the center, with windows evenly spaced on either side. The living room spanned the entire front of the house.

On the back wall, a doorway on the right led to a little hall with doors leading to a bathroom and bedroom. A linen closet fit in the space under the stairs. A trap door in the floor of the hallway led to the crawlspace underneath the house. It was dark and damp and scary; we didn’t want to go down there, ever, not even during a tornado. Dad would occasionally have to go down there, to check on something drainage or plumbing related, but I don’t think we children ever ventured down that hole. None of the girls, anyway!

A doorway on the left side of the back wall of the living room led to the kitchen, which also housed a large fuel oil furnace. A door led out to the back yard. There was a stairway in that space, too, but it was closed off, not yet in use.

I don’t remember that kitchen, though I have seen photos taken in it. Before long, Dad had a new kitchen underway…but that will have to wait for tomorrow!

 

Next…

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I pulled a book off the shelf: What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. I bought it several years ago, with the intention of working my way through it, chapter by chapter. I did one blog about the first chapter, “First Lines,” then closed it, put it back on the shelf and never looked at it again until today.

I don’t remember being resentful or mad about it, like I’ve become over the 30-day Creative Fire journal. I just quit. There is a strong possibility that I am just a quitter when it comes to goals I set for myself. I could make quite a list of examples, if I’m ever called upon to do it!

Anyway, paging through the writing exercises in this book, I came across several that grabbed my attention. They don’t seem to have an answer in mind, but rather just suggest a topic, very open-ended, and say “write for twenty minutes on it” or “fill one page.” It seems like a pretty good book; I’m going to give it a try.

In a chapter titled “Who Are You? Somebody!” the authors draw from an essay by Richard Hugo, who suggests that in a world that tells us “individual differences do not exist” and that “our lives are unimportant,” writing teaches that “you are someone and you have a right to your life.” They then offer several topic suggestions. The first is this:

List in detail all the places you have lived…

That’s where I start.

3678 Hunt Road, Lapeer Michigan was my first address. That’s where I spent the first eighteen years of my life, in a house that my father built with his own hands, right next door to my grandparents.

The land was a wedding gift to my Mom and Dad, from my mother’s parents. They could not stand the thought of their only child moving far away, so they gave them a place to make a home. In the year my mother graduated high school, the yearbook predicted that “in 10 years…” she would be “married and living on a farm on Beaver Island raising a half-dozen children.” Instead, she got married the August after her  graduation, but stayed close to home. My mother was born in the little cottage that stood on the lot to the right of our house; she was raised in the house on the other side of ours, and spent the rest of her life in her own home between the two.

I’ve traveled farther from my starting place than my mother ever did, but I’ve always held it close to my heart. Any memories of place, though, start with the address next door, where my grandparents lived.

My grandparent’s house was a story and a half, cottage style, with a stone foundation, and curved cement steps leading up to the front door. Flat, colorful rocks were embedded in the cement, and formed interesting patterns on the surface. Cedar hedges stood on either side of the door. A snowball bush sat beside the driveway.

On the far side of the house, there was a separate, flat-roofed garage, and a small orchard beyond: three apple trees, one pear. The back yard had a grape arbor with benches inside, a garden spot and a big willow tree. On the side of the house closest to ours, there was a fenced area enclosing a cesspool where the washing machine drained.

A neatly trimmed hedge divided front yard from back. A birdhouse anchored the large flower bed in the front yard. It perched on top of tall, ladder-like trellises that enclosed climbing roses and were surrounded by peonies and other blooms.  Huge elm trees provided shade and created a park-like setting. A white bench sat under the big trees. It was constructed of flat panels, much like a church pew.

That’s the description, bare. It doesn’t speak to the feelings, the deep-seated memories, the warmth. The sound of the wind when it wheeled through the branches of the willow tree…the quiet shade provided by the grape arbor…the flowery shelter of the igloo-shaped snowball bush…the feel of trudging through deep autumn leaves…these stay with me. Grandpa Ted would sit on his white park bench when the weather was mild, and we’d wander across the yard to talk to him. I never remember a time when he wasn’t glad to see us. We were always welcome there.

The crackle of drying leaves underfoot, the smell of autumn fires or the springtime scent of peonies in bloom can, after all these years, still transport me right back to that place and time.