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Poker Games and World News

Being raised in my town is becoming an evident trend for my family; in fact, I was practically born into a Kelly family tradition. The backdrop for my entire life has always been the same two-story, three-bedroom house tucked somewhere in the middle of the block. I am definitely not complaining about this situation; I actually begged my parents to never ever move when I was three. Honestly, I love living in a house that has acted as a witness to all 15 years of my life. All my memories are present in the walls, the floors, and the busted Fisher Price pool abandoned in the garage. Every room in the house has a story too; from my living room where I took my first steps, to my current bedroom where my family watched the Bulls win the ’98 NBA championship. My grandparents’ old house, only a few blocks away from my house, has the same significance in my life because it was practically a second home to me. The farthest we would ever travel was to my other grandparents’ apartment in Chicago. Although I did not visit them nearly as much, their apartment became a place full of adventure for me. Both houses are full of all the laughs, tears, and Sunday mornings that piece together my childhood.

Until I was about five, I was a really bold and adventurous kid who always put on a silly face. I never cared what people thought of me, and if I did not like them, I let them know. I had only one really good friend, who was my neighbor. He had a speech impediment, and my parents always said that I was the only person who could understand him. Growing up with a guy as my best friend pretty much ensured that I was going to be a tomboy. I definitely knew more about the Power Rangers and Star Wars then My Little Pony; and you would rarely catch me wearing a skirt. I grew out of that eventually, and surprisingly became a much different person. Still, preschool was an amazing time for me. My best friend lived a few doors down, so we could hang out pretty much all day. School was pretty much just a place where I could draw and read, so I was actually excited to go. Plus, every weekend was like a vacation to me. My dad would always pile us into to our maroon ’89 Camry, and drive us to our grandparents’ apartment in Chicago.

They lived right near Taylor Street, so we would walk down and get what my grandpa called a “Taylor Street lunch”. This lunch-which normally consisted of bread, pasta, prosciutto, and gelato-was more like an Italian feast. After we were done with lunch, my grandpa and I would sit down on the off-white couch in the front room to play poker. He never would just let me win, so he decided to pay me a dollar every time that I did manage to beat him. One time, after several games of poker, I decided to explore the apartment. Under a stack of old books, I found my grandpa’s old World War II army uniform complete with medals, and to my four-year-old delight, a sword. I was so fascinated by not only the uniform, but all the family history my grandma stored in there. I was devastated when they moved to a retirement community and had box it all up. Just recently, my family has been going through those boxes while the little kid in me stares wide-eyed at the family treasures.

When I was not in Chicago, I was usually at my other grandparents’ house. This was the house my mom grew up in, and since her parents had not moved out, every room was untouched since the 1980’s. Their home was literally my second home. If I felt sick or lonely, my mom would drive me over to my grandparents’ to stay over for the night. I grew up playing with all the toys my mom and my aunts and uncle played with. My grandma would even read me the same books that she read to them as well. They had this dog named Honey and since I never had a dog as a young kid, I took her to be my own. There was also this great little screened-in porch towards the back, where no matter what the season, my entire family would pile in there to eat dinner. Summers were usually spent with my ear pressed up against a screen, listening to the army of crickets that used to invade their backyard. The one object in that house that I remember the most was the little 12-inch TV in their breakfast room. Even though I was only seven when they moved out, I somehow seem to distinctly remember that incredibly small TV. Every night at 5:30 my grandpa would sit me down to watch Nightly News with Tom Brokaw and we would not say a word for the whole half-hour. I probably became one of the few kindergarteners so in touch with current events. Later, even though my grandparents had moved to their much smaller and much less interesting condominium, but we still watched that TV all of September 11th. That house has been absent from my life for nearly a decade, but I go past it almost everyday and try to catch a glimpse of that little screened-in porch.

Even though my house was usually the last place I wanted to be when I was a kid, I still had a really good time exploring it. We also have a great backyard, so in the summer, you would rarely find me inside. When I was really little, I was easily fascinated by the small things in my house. We had a laundry chute that I would stare at for minutes straight or sometimes stuff toys down it just to see what would happen. There was also this tiny, antique writing desk in our front room that belonged to my great-grandma. I would sit at it and open the little drawers in the center until I was no longer amused, which hardly ever happened. I also loved to play dress up, which I figure was odd considering I was a total tomboy. My favorite outfit to put on was my ballerina outfit, complete with ballet slippers. My love for looking like a ballerina later inspired me to actually take classes, which resulted in the activity that I was to pursue for the rest of my childhood.

Since I pretty much grew up at my grandparents’ houses, I got a really good sense of family when I was young. That is the reason I never felt bored with idea of being a third-generation Oak Parker, because I have always loved how close my family is. My childhood feels like just a reflection of all the love and support my family gives me, even as life becomes more challenging as I grow up. Still, the majority of these places are absent from my life now. Instead of having a “Taylor Street lunch”, we usually just order food from the retirement home’s restaurant. The little 12-inch screen was recently upgraded to a 32-inch plasma TV, but the advertised better picture and sound somehow take away from the 5:30 news. As time runs out on my childhood, I have to take what I can get. I only have two more years in my house before I have to leave the walls, the floors, and the ancient pool buried in my garage.

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