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February 29th

My parents married on February 29th of 1976. This
day of the year comes only once every 4 years, and true to their oddball senses
of humor, they thought it would be funny to marry on the leap year day.
It’s been on my mind, as I know that Feb 29th
is coming around again this year in a few days, and … sort of cosmically, my
childhood home, their home while they were married, goes on the market this weekend.
You know, I’m sure my Dad didn’t plan it this way – he’s not
much of a cosmic guy – but, I see it as pretty “full circle” in some ways. A
sad one, but I’m happy for the people who will get to enjoy that home next. It,
for all that it harbored, is a great home.
Most suburban sprawl children grow up feeling like there’s got to be something better than this po-dunk town. Or,
at least, the teenagers think that – we did, I did. But as a kid, actually, it
was pretty great. A number of parks in walking or biking distance. Everyone
rode a bike, and it was around the time they began to institute the “must wear
a helmet” law, and so everyone had some graphic neon print on theirs – or at
least I did. Hey, it
was the 80s.
There were supersoakers in the summer, and a fire in our
fireplace in the winter. For all its hardship, this was a wonderful place to
grow up.
Sure, we got antsy, and angsty the older we got. And we
spent many many an afternoon as
mallrats, being dropped off and picked up by our parents via a call from the
nearest payphone. We would posture and stand outside the mall. We would walk it’s
many corridors – we knew it back and forward, and could tell you the fastest
way to get to the food court. We rarely bought anything. If anything, we would
shoplift a bit. Or at least I did. I still owe some financial amends to a Junior’s department!
And then we’d be at someone’s home, their sunken living room with the
enormous box t.v. At a friend’s who had cable and this marvelous thing called
Nickelodeon and MTV.
Back at my home, there was the “secret passage way” to my best
friend’s house next door that my brother never figured out was just a path
through the pachysandra, and would beg to know the secret.
We’d, my best friend and I, block out the sunlight in my
parents room and play “blind man’s bluff” with my brother, which was an awful
game in which we covered him with a blanket, spun him around, and then he had
to find us in the semi-dark. The bed was out-of-bounds, and you couldn’t go on
it to escape him, but we did. And more than once, we spun him around so far
that his first step forward was into the nearest wall. …!
I spent hours in my
room, later as a stoned or drunk person, doing little projects around my room.
Creating a collage around the doorframe. Whittling down this enormous candle
with designs and indentations. There was the time when the sort of cream, sort
of yellow carpet began to swirl into different faces and shapes on one
particular evening.
When my friend and I would spill glue or paint onto the
carpet as little girls, we would use scissors to cut it out, so no one would
know.
The attic was always a scary place filled with junk and
treasures. Cascades of ribbons and wrapping paper – the only reason I ever went
up there — and would see in the periphery furniture, a bird cage, and that pink
insulation stuffing that I once got all over me and the little glass pieces
made me itch, and I had to sit in a bath of calamine lotion.
There were the number of times I puked in that house as a
sick young girl. The times I listened to my brother playing our grandfather’s
piano, and when I was doing homework and asked him to stop, he always had to play those last few notes.
There was my dad trying so hard to help me with my math
homework, but him always being a frustrated teacher, and me becoming a
frustrated student, and fireworks and yelling would ensue.
There was my mom and I using my spelling list in second
grade to create magical stories that used all the words, and I’d get little red ink
stars on all my spelling homework.
There was my first kiss. 🙂 When I was 11, and my mom’s best
friend came over from Switzerland with her family (though she too was from
Brooklyn), and she had a daughter who was 16 (tres glamourous to me at 11),
and a son who was 14. Erik. Tall, Blue Eyes, Blond Hair. Accent. And he told me
I was beautiful. When with my bottle glasses and frizzy hair, I’d
decided already I wasn’t. In the dim evening in my mom’s office, on the worn blue carpet,
after chatting giddily and eagerly, he kissed me.
177 Woodland Ave., River Edge, New Jersey, was my address from 3 – 24 years of age, with it being
my fallback location until this past fall. It was a dream house when they
bought it, and it will be a dreamhouse for its next
inhabitants, and their mall-lurking, supersoaker toting children.

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