More wisdom from fifteen-year-old me:
April 4, 1991
If you ever feel like you have a tiny house, get out an ice cream pail, a scrub brush, and a cloth, and start scrubbin’. It makes the floor stretch on endlessly. I think I put my kneecaps out of place today. No. I probably didn’t. But my hands smell bad.
We lived in these government-subsidized duplex buildings that year–well, quite a few years, actually. Eight I think, in the same one. Which is about eight times longer than I’d lived anywhere else. They had some kind of vinyl flooring throughout every room and up and down the stairs, and while my mother wasn’t too picky about clutter, she was a stickler about clean. She used to say that you could tell if someone was a good housekeeper by looking in the corners, not the middle of the room.
We did a lot of deep cleaning.
The neighbors, I think when we first moved there, were an interesting family. In addition to a bunch of other kids, they had three little triplets cuter than anything–one of whom we drove to the hospital while desperately performing the Heimlich manuever on. Why do I remember it being me holding that kid upside down on my lap wacking her between the shoulder blades? Surely it would have been the mother holding the kid? Maybe I was babysitting.
Anyway, their father was something like seven feet tall. Or seemed like it to me. He was one big Indian. Which, to me, was much scarier than one, big white guy. (Can I say that in a public forum? Will the NAACP come after me now? Can we relate how we really felt anymore, or do we have to pretend like we didn’t have some seriously ingrained prejudices when we were kids?)
The duplexes were made of stucco, and had big horizontal timbers between the upper and lower windows for decoration. One night my sister and I woke up in the middle of the night to see this dark face, with two enormous white eyes staring in our window. The father had had a little too much to drink (sniff? inhale?And yes, it was from this association that I came to know what pot smells like ) and had decided to climb around the outside of the building looking in windows. Eeeek.
The only other time I remember seeing someone’s face at that window was the night I was putting my brothers to bed and fell asleep reading them a story; I didn’t hear my parents pounding on the front door, and so they had to break into their own home. I think my brother woke up before I did, and unlocked the window for them.
Speaking of that family and banging on doors: I think this is the woman we hid in a secret closet we’d cut into the area under our staircase. There was all this empty space there, with just a coat closet under the tallest part of it, and my mother didn’t have a pantry, so she cut a hole in the sheet rock, behind the coats, put in a folding door, and even though we had the exact same floor plan as every other unit in the complex, you’d never know we’d gained a good twenty or so square feet of usable storage space. Anyway. I think her husband must have had too much to drink on at least one other occasion, because I remember her hiding in there and this guy pounding on the door. Shiver. I just remembered her name, too, because I could hear him shouting it.
Do you remember this Nena? Tell me I”m not making this stuff up…