What are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Describe your house. What did it look like? How did it smell? What did it sound like? Was it quiet like a library, or full of the noise of life? Tell us all about it, in as much detail as you can recall.
The earliest memories of the place I lived in as a child was a small house in East Van, just down from Commercial Drive and a five-minute walk to the Grandview Elementary School, where I was a student from kindergarden through to the first few months of sixth grade.
On one side of our house was a three-level set of apartments and on the other was a two-level house that was designed very much like ours. As with many houses in Vancouver, there was not much distance between residences–maybe a double door’s width–and I could see onto the balconies of the apartments from the top or bottom floor.
Our house exterior sported the palest of yellow hues on its slats, and hospital green accents around the windows and doors. There was no verandah (unlike some of the other houses in our neighbourhood)–just six cement steps and two black cast iron handrails that led up to the front door. We had no front lawn — just a paved walkway to the steps, and a graveled/stoned/pebbled surface around it–a precursor to a Zen garden, if you will.
We had no white picket fence, either; instead, there was chain link fencing all around our property, a galvanized metal gate that went right out to the sidewalk on the front, and a second metal gate that fenced off the garden from the streets on the back. The single-car garage out back (whose exterior colours mimicked the house’s) was always crammed with all sorts of esoterica. We had a small lawn out back between house and garage, and a token greenspace for gardening.
The house interior was a very small affair. The small foyer inside the front door had a closet for coats and shoes, and led into the living room on its left (the largest room in the house) without any preamble, and tunneled to the base of the stairs on its right through a rather brief and narrow hallway.
The piano that we were to acquire three years later became the centerpiece of the living room, which had a single row of furniture and a black wooden coffee table on the right side. The 20-something inch Zenith colour TV was placed directly opposite the the piano, tucked underneath the big window that looked out onto the rock garden out front. That TV (on which I played my first games of Atari’s Pong) is still used today, albeit as a table stand.
By contrast to the evergreen walls of the living room, the kitchen/dining room was painted a warm yellow. It was just a few steps away from the living room, as were the stairs that led to the second floor. The smells of my mom’s cooking in the morning (usually rainbow fried rice) would often wake me up. Many a time, I walked downstairs to eat it and spend some breakfast time talking with dad.
Beyond the kitchen/dining room was another room – the “homebase” for our dog (a Peke-Alsatian cross who had free run of the entire lower floor), the refrigerator (which, funnily enough, wouldn’t fit in the kitchen), and a blue, wooden shoe cabinet that my dad built. This final room exited to the back yard.
There were only five rooms on the second floor. At the top of the cream-carpeted two flights of stairs was three doors: one led to the very spacious linoleum floored attic where our belongings were kept; the second, to the only bathroom in the house (which faced the attic); and the third door, perpendicular to both doors, led to three bedrooms.
We did not have a hallway or landing upstairs, so once that third door was opened, you were in one of the three bedrooms (my brother’s, and the one bedroom without a window or privacy). The master bedroom on the left did have a door and closets; mine on the right, did have a door, but in lieu of the missing closets, I had a four-drawer chest. Ironically, my bedroom was even larger than both the other two bedrooms.
Our house was a relatively quiet one. We were a shy and not-very-talkative bunch. Any and all family activities took place in the living room downstairs, including homework, reading, letter writing to favourite aunts and grandfathers, piano (our tutor came on a weekly basis), TV, and even the rare stint of singing. We didn’t listen to music on the radio–the radio/cassette tape player was my dad’s pride and joy, and how he got his morning and business news before he went off to work. It was pretty much hands off for everyone else.
One of my fondest memories was when my parents spent a week building a human-sized, paper mâché doll house out of Sears’ catalogues in my room for my brother and me. Why they chose to–telling us in advance, of course–tear it down after just three days was a bit puzzling, though; there was more than enough room to keep that dollhouse in my room on a long-term basis.
We moved away to a more affluent Burnaby neighbourhood seven years later, and a few years before Expo ’86 precipitated a surge in real estate prices that continues today. As for that East Van house, it no longer exists — it has been twice replaced by apartments.
- Daily Prompt: Our House (dailypost.wordpress.com)