My backyard was my domain. Between the tuffs of grass where the sandy earth of the Long Island soil lay exposed my metal cars and trucks made their way along imaginary roads on their way to magical destinations. It was a small yard in comparison to others I’ve had in my life but to a small boy it was all I ever needed. Surrounded by a chain link fence our neighbors were old lady Conradson on one side and a nice Christian family on the other the Sheltons. We had a garage, a one car garage I believe that I do not remember very well. I don’t think it was left opened much nor was it used very much. My father’s old green Chevrolet, later to become my older sister Pat’s first car often sat in the driveway and not in the garage. At the far back corner was an enormous apple tree I used to spy on the entire neighborhood from. Climbing those twisted and gnarled limbs and branches was always difficult but once up I could see far down into my make believe world of cars and roads.
It was a two story house with a full basement my dad had fixed up that had a bar on one side and a nice room with tile flooring and wood panelling on the other with the basement steps splitting the cellar in half. From the back of the house, you entered the kitchen. Even now I can remember the kitchen as small even from a child’s perspective but that is where we ate – I never remember eating in the dining room which was the next room past the kitchen. It had an enormous wooden table in there a nice hutch all obviously set for the fancy company my mother always dreamed about but never appeared. Even when relatives came we spent all the time in the basement. Adults at the bar and kids playing and scattered everywhere. I understand my Uncle George slept one night on the beautiful dining room table and from that day on the table had a definite list to the left! That’s about the extent of the use the table got except it served as a great place to play with small trucks and cars on the grooved table legs. I’m sure that was not good for the table leg but great for the cars!
Following through the dining room you came to the front door – a passage rarely used except for the occasional family photo of all of us dressed in our best coming out the front door for Easter or some other event. As you passed the front door you came to the living room which was used a bit more than the dining room. Hard wood floors covered by the occasional round hard rope type of rug, I do remember things like our first television set and the first stereo system in that room. The is a picture of me in a small pedal car in that room – the one and only time that little car made it into the house! Splitting the house and right across from the front door, were the stairs going upstairs to the bedrooms. Up the stairs to the left my room and my parent’s room in the front, to the right the one bathroom in the house and my sisters room. Unremarkable except to say how much the floors creaked especially upstairs. My mother was always cleaning, especially the floors. As the story goes she washed the hardwood floors with scrubbing brush and soap and water for many years eventually warping them so when you walked across the floors the wood boards creaked against each other. Real creepy especially for a young boy frightened of monsters my older sister Pat assured me lurked in the basement.
Out the front door of the house was never my world until I was a bit older – elementary school – perhaps 5th or 6th grade when I had complete and untethered access to the rest of the world.