There was something so comforting…so constant about that soft, burnt orange carpet. It blanketed each room in our house. Like sand on a beach, it beckoned uncovered toes to play and dig…in those tall dense twisting threads. Even after 20+ years that carpet still looked newish. Not the color, of course. I think the color was maybe always retro, but it never felt rough, matted or nasty. It was plush and luxurious.
Where carpet paused, a long walkway of hypnotic, geometric tile ran in its place. But that carpet…that orangey-red disco party carpet; it felt like home. It was the foundation of my formative years. It’s not really as deep or philosophical as it sounds; it just literally covered the foundation of my family home.
I knew every corner of that house. After I started staying home alone, there were some days where I’d forget my house key, but I knew that even without my key I wasn’t really locked out. My home was like a huge protective friend who would never leave me alone in the cold (Southern CA cold…so not that cold). Over the years, my sweet retro home had shared at least 3 good ways to break in.
I knew every inch of our yard too. We had a huge hill in the back and “the hill” always made it to our short list of things to conquer on Saturdays. Some days we traipsed through distant, uncharted jungles and other days we’d crawl on our bellies, beneath the overgrown bushes and trees to discover and rediscover forts. All of our adventures ended with a compulsory slide down the highest part of the hill. My sister and I would squat and ride on our shoes the whole way down, with a plume of dust and a small avalanche of dirt trailing behind us. All of our little friends loved our hill too, but none of them were able to ride it without becoming a sad and uncomfortable owner of a dirty, brown bottom. We’d all meet on the grass and the looks were always the same, “could have done without dirty, brown pants, but it sure was a fun hill!”
That house held 17 years worth of Christmases, each one of them stuffed to the cathedral ceiling with a 13 foot tree. We’d get the tree the day after thanksgiving and decorate it over that weekend. Most nights leading up to Christmas, we expected Dad to gather us up to sit and admire our tree and its twinkling lights. Usually we’d sip warm eggnog too.
I’ve grown up to see my childhood home in an even holier light than I did as a kid. As if angels descend and ascend on a brilliant beam of radiance right over that roof. I’m sure that the current residents of my childhood home must feel a constant flood of blessing and peace. But if you ask the older generation how they remember the same house, the image darkens a bit. They remember the rooms being small and dark and maybe the house felt too close to other houses on that street. And no one could get over that one neighbor. The one who never understood which side of the street was his; who always parked his limping leaky old truck on the wrong side of the street.
Maybe I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, but I’d venture to say that most of us feel like there’s something exceptional about one specific childhood home. That “one” (house) that lives suspended in our minds, where only lovely memories are allowed to exist. Yes, bad times happened, but “that one house” stands unblemished and faultless. And when our big, grown-up stresses pile high, we steal away; sometimes just for a moment, and we rush at that pool of childhood levity. We cannon-ball, swan dive, pencil jump, belly flop into that sweet chunk of memories where all the burdens weighed less than fluffy clouds; where the worst day meant getting up for school, and the best…endless sunny possibilities.
Writer and fellow traveler on the road of life.