Friday, January 9, 2009

Our Home

Daddy Long Legs spider.
Old Lachine, P.Q. style of house

Our Home

White lacy curtains graced the four windows in my little room. Green shutters kept the summer sun out as if to protect the inners of the house from the sun’s ravages.

Little hairy spiders hung about as if they owned the place. I did not mind them so much. I did not like the great large ones with the huge body and long legs! Somebody once told me they were called “Daddy Long Legs” but they sure did not resemble my Daddy!

The big spiders terrified me, as I valiantly tried to catch them with a dust mop to put them outside. When one escaped from my mop and started to scuttle across the wooden floor, I don’t know who ran faster, it or me!

Sometimes when I would awaken in the middle of the night, and put the little lamp on near bed, I would see a cobweb which was not there before I went to sleep.

I was afraid to fall asleep then. I could imagine a giant hairy spider peering down at me from the corner of the room. He was just waiting to pounce once I let my guard down. I needed to sleep with one eye open, ever alert for the danger of a spider web growing until it engulfed me and took me prisoner

My room was my castle, and my throne was the captain’s bed. From there I could survey my subjects. Stuffed animals and dolls looked back at me from their shelf.

I arranged them all in a row, their faces looking so earnestly at me. I loved my black doll the best. She had such expressive eyes. She always sat with my dear old teddy bear with no name.

He was the worse for wear, missing an arm and an eye but he was the king of my heart. Perfect in my eyes in every way.

The side windows in my room showed nothing but the neighbour’s grey stucco wall.

No, it was at the front windows where I did my best day dreaming. It was in this room where I could let my imagination take flight and soar up to the heavens and beyond.

My room was my own little space, just for me and me alone. How I loved that little room!

Our Mom ran our home like a well ordered ship, everything in its place and everything on schedule.

She was the captain and we were the crew. She was the queen bee and we were the workers.

The room next to me was shared by two boys. Their view was even better than mine and their room much larger.

Bedtime did not mean sleep time, at least to my little brother and I. It meant time to whisper to each other from the adjoining rooms, to sneak our flashlights under the bed sheets and to read comics without getting caught. It meant sharing secrets with each other which nobody else knew.

When we would hear footsteps coming up the stairs, it was a sign to turn off the flashlights and pretend to be asleep. We were the great pretenders! Grannie was always the next one in bed and that would be the end of the whispering and giggling.

Our Grannie’s room was bright and spacious and faced the neighbour’s side wall. When the light purple lilac tree was in bloom and a slight wind would blow, the heavenly smell of the lilacs would permeate not only her room but also the dining room downstairs.

In the time of the greatest bloom, lilacs would grace our dining room table and share a spot of honour with the Lilies of the Valley which grew in the hollow near the Victory Garden behind our house.

Our house was so modern that we even had a chute which fascinated me. I could imagine myself and my dirty clothes tumbling, tumbling downward. In my imagination, I could feel myself falling, falling surrounded by the dirty clothes.

It was an open space ready to devour me as I leaned over it to put my clothing into it. It fascinated me and at the same time scared me.

The last room upstairs, except for the old fashioned bathroom with its wonderful old tub with high sides and claw shaped legs, belonged to my parents. Their room even had a little balcony which nobody was allowed to use. I always wanted to go out on that balcony. Out there,I could see who was coming down the lane.

However, I never did get out on that little balcony.

My parents’ room had the commanding view of who went up and down the stairs and it was never possible to sneak in unnoticed when we were teenagers!

As for the main floor and the basement, ah, that is another story all together.

The kitchen, the pantry off it and the back porch all were one large space. Oftentimes we would go out through the back porch, down the few stairs, into the back yard with its Victory Garden and wooden swing set.

On Wash Day, we would have to be careful to avoid the large white sheets on the clothesline which flapped in the wind, wet as can be, ready to slap any unwary person in the face who came too close.

Just in case you think that nothing ever happened when I was young, read on and see for yourself.

A little poem I did compose to bring to your attention, an event to remember.

“ A mouse in the house, my dear, what can you mean?
Alas for us, he came to call quite late in the night
finding us asleep in our beds
A scratch on a match
a small fire he did set
lucky for us
we all woke up in time

The scene of the crime
was not the fanciest room
where jewels and gold could be found
rather, the humble pantry where food did abound.
an intruder, who was there on a mission of his own.

No cat in sight to keep him away
alas, he did his damage and went on his way!

that event was traumatic as I recall
the smell of smoke still brings it to mind
even after sixty years have gone by
a mouse, my dear, who caused quite a stir! "

Ah, but lest you think that all was traumatic, let me tell you about our little playhouse which stood in the corner of our garden. As children, my friends and relations spent many happy hours imagining everything from a house under siege from “bad guys” to playing house and making tea.

The Lilac tree standing so tall and proud was my favourite spot. I would spend hours with my nose in a book, transported far beyond the borders of Lachine or even La Belle Province.

However, one cannot spend all the time outside in the garden, especially when winter draws near. Our sturdy old house was built in 1925 and was bought by my parents in 1944.

The dining room held a wonderful old solid wood table with ornate carvings on the legs. This table, at Christmas or New Years, had to be extended to accommodate my family and relatives who lived down the lane.

A matching buffet held our Mother’s good Limoges China which was her pride and joy and used only for very special occasions. Silver napkin rings, silver candlesticks and white damask table cloth set the tone for these occasions.

The plate rail high above our heads held many wonderful objects that we could see when we sat there.

Two windows which overlooked the side of our neighbour’s house gave both light and air to this beautiful room.

A little powder room was added during the years when we lived there to accommodate our large family. It was my job to keep it clean for which I earned 25 cents a week. Along with these earnings, I had an allowance of 50 cents a week which had to be budgeted.

Our sitting room, a friendly place, held a fireplace which we lit from time to time. In 1961, a big ice storm hit Lachine and we kept warm because of the fireplace.

Speaking of the fireplace, on each side, a bookcase of glass and wood, stood proudly there to hold our treasures of the written word. Many of my Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames books were kept there as well as the family Bible.

The sitting room windows, with their lacy curtains, offered a cool breeze filtered through our wonderful old tree which stood on the front lawn.

This sitting room saw many a happy time, Christmas presents under a tree, a card table for the children to enjoy their own separate Christmas feast away from the eyes of noticing adults, a cheerful canary singing its own little song and many a game of monopoly played by the children of the family.

Alas, I haven’t spoken yet of our basement which was deep and dark and ran the length of the house.

In it, Daddy had his workshop for his many tools. It was a storage area for out of season clothes, and that is where the chute came down with all the dirty clothing and where the wringer washer stood so patiently waiting for its next load.

One year, Stony Point overflowed and it caused a flood in our basement which was a big problem for my parents. As a child, I found it exciting to wade through the water in my high boots.

I had one area of the basement I was afraid to go in though. The cold storage room with its freezing temperature and pull chain light. The scary images on the wall from the faint light, gave rise to my imagination, and my heart pounding, I would grab what my Mother wanted and race out of there.

This old house which has sheltered so many people over the years, still continues to stand there even after all these years.

Now, I ask my audience, is this an honest portrayal of my childhood home, or is it an imaginary one? It’s your call!!!!


1 comment:

annaken said...

Thank you for your comments on my e-mail. As a Lachiner, you certainly will remember the spiders as I do!

It was good to share your memories of that time.