June 1, 2010
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One Twenty Six. This was the address where most of my memories were created. Everyone’s home, everyone’s place to run to, and most of all, where I lived during some of the happiest times of my life, that home holds my childhood.
It was humble. The exterior looked worn, a pale orange color with a rusty outline and a front porch with flaking maroon paint. After passing no fewer than two cars in the gravel driveway, once on the porch you’d find crates full of rollerblades, discarded skateboards, water noodles, possibly a cat, and a rainbow of paint smears.

When Jeri and I finger painted on the porch, we accidentally dropped some paint on the step. The design turned out pretty, and from that moment on we deemed the porch our place to decorate anytime we painted, resulting in various smudges and mini pictures all over it. Mom didn’t seem too happy, but she never took any of them off.

It wasn’t that the porch was cluttered; the kids just decided to keep all their outdoor equipment on it. To us, what our home looked like wasn’t important, it was the feeling you got once you were inside.

The living room was… eclectic. Draped with Afghans and blankets, our couches remained protected from cat hair and messy children. Two recliners, one slightly smaller for mom, both showed their age with worn spots in the fabric. Two mirrors hung on either side of the entertainment center, cluttered with pictures, trinkets, keepsakes, and of course the VCR and TV. At one point, we even had this hideous blue swordfish hanging behind the couch. Apparently my mom’s dad gave it to her so she had to hang it, but deep-down even she knew it was awful.

The kitchen was directly to the left of the living room, separated by an extended bar that had three barstools. Our white fridge, plastered with magnets, drawings, the chore board, a calendar, had very little white left to be seen, in contrast with the magnet-free deep freeze to the right of it. Mom did a lot of cooking in mass quantities, making it necessary to keep it in the kitchen. Our stove and dishwasher shined in brand new in black and stainless steel, complements of my Grami, but the counters and cabinets were an outdated wood-look-a-like. The kitchen wasn’t a hang-out place, you went in there to get what you needed and you left.

Mom always had food rules. You could have a soda, Capri-sun, Mondo, or Twinkie, Zebra Cake, banana bread, but only one a day. Don’t let her catch you trying to sneak more. If you were done with a dish, it went in the dishwasher, not the sink or you’ll wash every dish in there by hand. If she was cooking, you stayed far away, feeding twelve mouths is hard enough without all of them talking to her in the process.

The dining room didn’t serve as a dining room until the latter years of us living there. We had a nice glass table with black chairs and not only did mom not want them to get messed up, there were only four spaces. So until we started using the table every night it served as the laundry table. Two folding doors on the far wall held the washer and dryer, mom always kept those doors closed but we all knew there were stacks of clothes, linens, blankets because if one thing never ended in that house, it was the laundry. Opposite the wall with the folding doors, stood the back door leading to our back porch. Often this door stood open to let the breeze and many feet travel through.

Finally, Mom and Jeremy’s room. The biggest room in the house, it was a bit overcrowded with a king size bed and heavy traditional furniture. Their bathroom was connected to their room, and it was off limits to anyone without special permission. It had a large oval tub in the middle, and a sink on either side of the tub, separated by thin walls. We envied their tub, so perfect for bubble baths, and frequently tried to sneak in there.

Because we didn’t live in a house (we lived in a trailer) it was just one long, rectangular design. Traveling back to the living room, we’re going to see the other end of the house. A narrow hallway led first to our guest bedroom. For a short time I called it my bedroom, but our walls were thin and everything going on in the living room could be heard in that room, quickly motivating me to switch. After I moved, a futon bunk bed made for the perfect sleep over room, then changing to the craft/game room with stacks of neatly labeled plastic bins full of paints, Popsicle sticks, glue guns, dice, marbles, game boards. The room never stayed the same for too long, nor did it ever stay empty of people.

This room was also a brewery for trouble. During a sleep over,I had three friends over and we decided to… well I don’t know exactly what we were doing, but it ended up with two of us in the room and two in the hallway, with only the door separating us. Push came to shove and there went the door. We completely ripped it off the hinges,and let me tell you, we paid for that one. Another time (during a sleep over, imagine that) there was a pillow fight and the light fixture went flying, broken from the ceiling. That time we tried to cover it up and not confess, but it turned out much like the door breaking. Finally, when the room was our craft room, someone decided to play with mom’s acrylic paints. Before we knew it the carpet, walls, even the cat had giant globs of hot pink paint. It was not washable paint either.

If you kept going down the hall, you’d run into the bathroom attached to my bedroom, and as much as I liked to call it my bathroom, it was the community stall. Very tiny, with only a small mirror and a counter not much larger than the sink, we needed shelves hung. They collected everything a teenage girl might need; it goes without saying they were messy. Because it was by my room, mom agreed to let me decorate it any way I wanted, and I chose to use my porcelain faces. For a few years I’d collected these small masks painted brightly with colors and glitter, ribbon and feathers, and it excited me to be able to display them. I also painted the walls the same baby blue as my room, to solidify that it was my bathroom.
The last room in the house was my room. It never stayed the same for longer than one year. Every summer I’d fly to Colorado to see my family and when I’d come back home, my room would be completely remodeled. Mom and Jeremy used to rearrange the furniture for me, repaint the walls, it was amazing. My favorite was the baby blue walls with white furniture. Mom hand-stenciled purple and red butterflies and dragon-flies on all four walls, she even bought me new baby blue rugs to match. I felt like I had the room everyone wanted.
The inside of our home, however, was only half of it. When we first moved there, we found only a small set of stairs from the back door, so we built a porch. It was the perfect size square and we had a table set along with a giant grill on it. Mom had flowers hanging along the rafters and herbs in between the pegs on the rail. We’d sit outside for dinner sometimes and we could always smell her basil.

Everyone knew where we lived because the landlord didn’t want to sell the plot of land next to ours, leaving a long rectangular plot of grass. All the kids in the neighborhood used it as a football field, a short-cut around the block, tanning space, anything you can think of.

We’d always had a swing set, but once “Santa” brought us a trampoline, our yard became much more attractive than the field. As the only family on the block to have one, we didn’t mind sharing as long as the rules were followed—one person at a time, no one ever underneath it, always take your shoes off first. Eventually kids coming over to play turned into kids staying for dinner which led to kids staying the night.

The kids that Mom found present every single time, Jeri and Nikki, stood out from the other regulars. Jeri lived at the end of the block, near the hill. Our block had a steep hill you had to drive up before you got to the homes. All the kids loved that hill because when the weather
turned cold and it iced over, we all got excused snow days from school when no one else did.

Her dad wasn’t a very good dad sometimes, so she spent a lot of time at our house. Usually, Mom’s rule stayed firm in that no one can stay over on school nights, but Jeri was different. She could stay anytime she wanted, for as long as she wanted. Eventually she just moved in with us.

Mom loved being a mom more than anything else. At least that’s what she made people think, because she stayed involved, she went the extra mile to make the kids happy, and her patience was something to be envied. Once Jeri moved in with us, Mom decided she wanted to be a babysitter full time. She regularly volunteered to babysit for friends and coworkers, so she spread the word and before we knew it she had a regular crowd of at least seven kids.

Three of them came over directly after school—the bus dropped them off. Two of them lived across the street and came over before and after school. One of them was a thief. All of them came on the weekends. Our house was kind of crazy, loud and always full, but we all enjoyed it. Most of the kids had problems in school, and school is the most important thing to Mom. When we got off the bus, she gave us twenty minutes to get a snack and relax, then homework. No one could watch TV, go outside, or play until our homework was done. She made us sit at the bar and the dining room table, and checked all of our work for mistakes before she let us go. I’m one of the oldest, and I enjoyed seeing each and every one of those kids go from hating school to liking it, from failing grades to B’s and A’s. Having them in our home proved to be an amazing experience.

The next addition to our family was Nikki. She lived on the opposite side of the block and her situation was similar to Jeri’s—she didn’t like her home life and Mom decided it was best to have Nikki also move in with us. She is six months older than me, Jeri is a year older than me, and the three of us defined ‘attached at the hip’. We did everything together.

I’ve known Jeri since we were about six years old. When she came to me at thirteen years old and said she decided to move in with her mom in Ohio, I was devastated. Life just wouldn’t be the same without Jeri.

It wasn’t long after she moved that I found out Mom and Jeremy were getting a divorce. Not long after that we moved to Colorado. It felt like everything about my life changed at once. The moment I found out, all I could do was reminisce about all the times we’d had on this block…

When Mom and Jeremy threw me going away/welcome home parties, we’d stake down an oversized tarp on the hill in our front yard. Mom would lather it up with baby oil, turn on the revolving sprinkler and all the kids had a huge water slide. We loved it so much, we’d beg to leave it out for a few days.

…I was thinking about all the times there’d been fights, arguments, slammed doors, and crying…
When I was twelve I started hanging out with a kid named
Ryan, he was my best friend .He was black. My friend’s,mother found out about it and told Whitney she wasn’t allowed to speak to me anymore because I was a n***** lover. That is what opened my eyes to the real south.
…all those embarrassing times, the ones that mortify you when it’s happening but crack you up after.

The most embarrassing moment of my life: I was getting off the school bus in fifth grade, and I heard someone yell, “Jauhna! Is that your mom?” When I turned to look out the window I saw my
mom mowing the lawn. In her bra and underwear. Supposedly she was working on her tan, but really I just think she was out to humiliate her daughter.

Most of all, the moments where we just sat back and took the time to say, life is good, and appreciate the people in our lives.

Every morning when we all stood outside to wait for the bus, we’d walk to someone’s house (alternating each day) and wait for the bus together. We’d huddle close when it was cold out, we’d slam our backpacks on the gravel driveways when it was too hot to wear them, we sang songs, laughed, just enjoyed being friends. One song I still remember was our version of P.O.D. “We are, we are the frozen united nation, we are, we are, the frozen united na-ation”

So stupid, but one of my favorite things we did together.
My mind kept replaying the laughs we shared, the screams of excitement, the sleep-overs, feeding the ducks, the paint wars, secret adventures. That place will always be my home. It will always be where I grew up, where I learned so many things, a place that everyone holds close to their heart.

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