The Blue House on the Hill

Another piece from my writing class. We were to pick a place and write about it. I chose to write about the house I lived in grade school, before we moved over the laundromat. We called it the blue house on the hill, or that is how I remembered it, anyway.
In front of house
The blue house on the hill before it was painted blue…

The house was painted a bright blue. The left side of our house on the hill had a bowl-like lawn, green and lush, bordered by Blanchard road on one side, and a forest on the other sides. The trees were close together and dark, and if I walked into the woods from the back of the house, I could walk all the way to the shore of Lake Hebron. But I never did, I was too young to do that when we lived on Tenney Hill.

I was old enough to walk into town. I’d walk or ride my bike; sometimes I’d stop at the butcher shop on my way back and buy a small package of cream cheese, just for me.

In the side lawn there was a car. I don’t remember how long or why it was there, but I do remember that we were told not to play near it.

One day Betty-Jean, who was my best cousin, and Brian, who lived across the street, and I played Barbie around the abandoned car. Our Barbie Dolls and Steve Austin dolls were the heroes; my brother’s G.I. Joe dolls were the bad guys. (The Steve Austin doll was the action figure for the Six-Million-Dollar Man, a popular television show, I had one, and so did Betty-Jean.) My mother yelled at us to get away from the car, and in the rush my Steve Austin doll, in spite of his bionic legs and arm, got caught in the door; his foot fell off. I smuggled him into the house and wrapped his leg with white medical tape. From then on, Steve limped along, always getting caught up in some adventure before he can get his bionic leg fixed by Oscar Goldman.

Betty Jean and Me
Betty Jean and Me on December 27, 1977

Recently I asked my mother about the car. She didn’t remember it, “that doesn’t sound like us,” she said with the unspoken implication that we were better people than that, that only trailer park trash would have a car in their yard. “But there was that well-drilling truck that was there a really long time, we had to call them to get them to take it back.” So long that when my parents painted the house bright blue (“I’ll never paint a house that color again. Too blue.”) they painted a large peace sign on its side. If this happened today, she’d paint an American flag, or something like that.

On the right side of the house was a culvert that, in the spring, had a continuous flowing water supply deep enough to host several ill-fated tadpoles. My brother Billy and I would catch the tadpoles and put them in a large white 5-gallon bucket so we could watch them turn into frogs. We’d forget them. It was like the worms I caught as a toddler. I’d put them in my sandbox and they’d dry up for lack of moisture.

The side entrance was a one-story addition that led to a den. My brother would climb out one of the second-story windows onto its roof and test the theory that cats always land on their feet. To the right of the den was the kitchen, which opened up to the dining room. The dining room had a door on the left to the only bathroom in the house, and two doorways on the right, one leading to the living room, the other leading to the cellar. We had a proper cellar. It was cool, dark and dank, and it smelled musty. Shelves filled with canned goods lined the sides of the cellar stairway.

When our parents went out, we got a babysitter. Usually it was Jane. She was of medium height thin, her hair was long, black and greasy, and she wore heavy makeup. One Saturday when I was in second grade, my parents went out, and sure enough, Jane was called to sit for us. Hungry, I got a can of peaches from the cellarway. I was wearing my nightie; my feet were bare. As I carried the can into the kitchen so I could open it, I dropped it on my toe. My toe split open. And Jane didn’t know what to do. She failed to reach my parents by phone (this was long before cell phones) so we soaked my foot in warm water and waited until they got home. I fell asleep in my chair and woke up to Dad helping me get dressed enough to go to the hospital, where I had 5 stitches. The hospital gave me awesome Styrofoam booties to wear home.

To the right of the house stood a smaller house; it was grey and boring and had a garage. A man owned it, but he didn’t live there, he only came during the summer and weekends. I’d pick dandelions on our shared front lawn, and capture daddy long-legs, tearing legs off to see what would happen.

One Christmas, when I was between 1 and 2 years old, my parents bought me a plastic piggy bank. My parents thought it was so adorable. I screamed at it; it terrified me. When I started to learn how to walk, my mother, at a loss as how to stop me from trying to climb the stairs without her knowledge, put the piggy bank on the first landing going up the stairs. I would not pass that pig.

We had a houseful of people over for Thanksgiving dinner. Once we all ate, my dad would bring out Gramp’s muzzle loader, a gun that didn’t use bullets, you had to add the buckshot and gunpowder yourself. He’d stuff the muzzle loader full of stuff, like bb’s or popcorn, and shoot it off just to see what happened. The men laughed hysterically when they saw that the popcorn actually popped on its way out.

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What place from your childhood do you remember?