Friday, July 19, 2013


Every summer, particularly when we have torrential downpours and lightning storms here in Washington State, I think of my summers on the east coast. Every summer when I was 8 years old - 17 years old (I think I missed the year I was 15 years old  due to college classes), I went to Pittsburgh to visit my dad and grandparents. Every year there was always at least one horrible storm while I was there--sticky heat, lightning, thunder, incessant rain. I loved those storms.

During those years that my mom and I moved so very often, my grandparents' house was like a home. It was an anchor in my chaotic life. Every time I arrived I'd go through the house and notice the small, and sometimes large, changes that occurred since the previous summer. Mostly it was sigh-worthy DIY projects that my grandfather attempted. Occasionally the change was a new piece of furniture. I would always find my library card at its spot on the fireplace, and I'd blow off the year's worth of dust that had accumulated on it. My dad's family wasn't into reading. They were so not into reading that they didn't even read trashy magazines.

While my grandparents and father technically lived at the house, my grandparents kept grandparent hours (awake from what seemed like 5am - 8pm), my dad was rarely home (who knows what he was doing), so I was by myself a lot. My grandparents were in the house, but they were sleeping while I stayed up until 3 or 4am and slept in until noon.

I spent a lot of time alone those summers. I had a friend next door until her parents got divorced, and she moved away. There weren't many other kids in the neighborhood. My grandmother was quite ill. My grandfather was curmudgeonly. My father--who knows where he was. Like I said, it was usually just me. I'd ride my bike by myself around the neighborhood. I'd watch MTV. I read. I'd take walks.

My grandparents didn't even believe that kids should have chores, so I really had NOTHING that I had to do. And you know what? I loved it. Absolutely loved it. Most other kids would probably HATE being away from their friends, stuck with their grandparents, and pretty much nothing to do. I wasn't like that. I loved every minute. I savored just being. During those torrential downpours, I'd put my nose to the window screen and breathe in as much of that acrid smell as I could. On clear nights, I'd try to find Orion and the Big/Little Dipper. I'd go into scary walk-in closets and see what I could find. I'd snuggle in bed and read by flashlight. I'd think. I'd put my ear to the air vent on the second floor and listen to a conversation that was happening in the basement. I'd play Munchman (poor person's version of PacMan) on the TI-99.

Sometimes I wish I had that metaphorical anchor to go back to each summer. My uncle sold the house after my grandfather got senile (he outlived both my grandmother and father), and the new owners completely renovated it. It no longer looks like the same house on the outside or inside. Different owners, practically different house, it's true that I could never go back. But it's not the house I want. It's the feeling that I want. I want to feel that anchor.

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