My Old House

It smelled funny and it looked like crap — and I loved it.

I can still see it — the aluminum siding the color of morning pee, the brick stoop with several bricks missing, the lamppost in the front yard that had only worked for one week in 1989. It was my home. The Meagher family home on Pennroad Avenue. (My family is so large that we have to distinguish between our families through the names of our streets, so we were known as the “Pennroad Meaghers” — much like royalty.)

My house was a five bedroom, two bath monstrosity. There is no architectural style that can truly describe the look of the thing. It looked like a child’s drawing of a house — box-like, off-centered, and bland. The front door was white with a gold knocker. My father and brother had built the door when I was very little, and it had blood in the jamb where I had accidentally cut off my brother’s thumb. (Don’t worry, doctors reattached it.) The front porch was once screened-in, but it had been enclosed sometime in the 70s. Most of the time, the porch was a graveyard of bike skeletons, Sit ’N Spins, Fisher Price basketball hoops, and sporting equipment. During those rare times when it was straightened up, the porch was the epic battleground where my brother and I would play basketball until one of us was victorious, or I got hit in the face and cried, or both.

The porch and the living room were separated by a door and a large window. The door never would stay shut by itself, so we used a metal garden frog to hold it closed. The window is where I mooned my family on a dare by my brother, a common occurrence. The floor of the downstairs was covered in a dark brown carpet which hid years of spills, and the walls were covered in brown paneling. The kitchen floor sloped, and several cabinet doors were missing. We had little luck with bathrooms. Most of the downstairs bathtub’s tiles were missing, and its drain didn’t work — so we bailed the water out with a bucket. The upstairs bathtub didn’t work at all from 1990 through 1999.

Most of the house had holes in the wall, usually due to fights between my siblings. Battles so epic that they can only be told by old British scops. If those walls could talk, they would scream in horrific pain and curse our name.

Despite all of the holes, the drafty cracks, and the poop hued carpet, I loved my childhood in that house. All the good moments always have outweighed the bad. I remember sneaking sips of soda from my mom’s glass, and eating cheese and mayonnaise from the fridge. I loved drawing pictures on the lead painted walls of my stairway, and my Winnie the Pooh bedsheets. Most of all, I miss the smells. The smell of my old room reminds me of my brother’s attempt to knock out my loose tooth by elbowing me in the face. The moldy smell of my basement reminds me of the time we set up an electric train and spent hours watching it fall off the track. The living room’s stale smoke smell reminds me of the magical Christmas when we got a Nintendo and my father spent the whole day playing Super Mario Brothers. Although my father held the controller wrong and repeatedly fell into pits, he guffawed the whole time, and we did too. He spent the rest of the night conquering the first level of The Legend of Zelda.

After living in the same home for 18 years of my life, my family moved out of our shoddy abode and into an apartment in Rockville, MD. We sold the house to the funeral home next door, and much to my chagrin, its owners decided to tear the yellow giant down so they could expand their parking lot. Luckily, none of my family was there to see the old girl put down, but I think I died a little that day. The only relic I have from my childhood home is a single brick from the stoop. A single brick for years of my happiness.

There actually is no “One Pennroad Avenue” anymore. The street starts at number two now. The only solace I can take out of this situation is that I don’t have to see someone else live in my house, or change it in any way. It will live forever as my pee-colored castle in my memories.

Article © 2008 by Mike Meagher