Friday, April 16, 2010

A stumbling block on the trip down memory lane

See the house on the corner in this picture? I once lived there. (aside: Don't you just LOVE Google maps for finding stuff like this?)

When I rented space in this house, 9 other college chickies lived there with me. I was the late addition, and a rather unwelcome one at that as far as my roommate seemed to indicate. The problem was this: I was not supposed to be living there, her real roommate I guess either dropped out of school or decided to live someplace else, and because of a certain situation with the place I WAS supposed to be living, I got shoved into ‘her’ room. It was apparent she was not at all happy with this turn of events, and that I was most unwelcome in 'her' room. Yeah, she was a little testy about the whole affair.

For the year I was there, it was quasi misery. There were 5 ladies on our floor sharing ONE bathroom, 1 chick on our floor who was a complete psycho and who regularly populated the kitchen with her townie/bar hag buddies, a roommate who ate nothing but tuna and Combos, and the group of my friends with whom I should have been living having a blast 5 blocks away in the house we’d rented but was in such bad shape my folks thought it would be unsafe for me to live there.

To heap insult on injury, our room was perhaps the worst in the whole house, as far as positioning goes. See that really busy road leading northward? Our room was on that side of the house. See the other busy road going east-west? Yes, our room was on that road too. See the window on the front of that house? Underneath that window was my bed. Next to my bed was the old armoire I bought for 40 bucks at a thrift shop and refinished on this house’s back porch. The armoire, which now sits in our kitchen, has 3 drawers, 1 shelf, and about 18 inches of hangar space. Please note: This was my ENTIRE closet for that year. There was no place else to put stuff, and no place else in that room to hide if roommate and I (and sometimes, her BOYFRIEND!) were in that room together.

In that room I learned to ignore the sound of 18-wheelers furiously downshifting to stop at a red light or make a hard turn. In that room I learned that roommate believed that ‘nobody should have a hairstyle that required the use of a blowdryer or curling iron. You just have to work with what you have.’ Well kids, this was the 80’s for one thing and oh yes, not everyone WANTS to look like frigging Prince Valiant. Weirdo Combo-eating aerobics-doing wannabe sorority girl. In that room I l earned how to creatively escape to many other nooks and crannies around campus.

There were a couple of saving graces about this place though: one was the basement and one was the attic. The basement was creepy, with a cage under the stairs and a dirt floor. It was full of spiders and funky smells, had a huge coal hopper in one corner, and was rife with possibilities of terrible things having happened down there. Naturally, I quite liked it. The attic was locked, but who lets a thing like THAT stop them? Not me and my fellow explorers, oh no! Once in the door (full stairs led upwards), the attic was, and I supposed still is, a multi-roomed light-filled place that had obviously been the haunt of many a young person through the years, if the cartoons on the walls were any indication. Drawings of flappers and dandies covered several of the oddly-shaped walls, inscriptions and humorous poetry were scrawled in corners, and there was an enormous sense of that attic having been the scene of many a wild goings-on. It would have been such a cool place to live, but the owners weren’t all about anyone making a home up there. More’s the pity. I would have LOVED looking out the third-story windows onto those noisy trucks, those busy lanes of highway, the bustling students heading to campus, the tops of old trees. It would have been so much better than where I was put, in that cramped unhappy room on one of the busiest corners in Harrisonburg. But no. I was stuck there, and stuck good.

That 5th year of college, when I was desperately trying to finish a Biology degree and get my teaching certification, kept me so busy I was rarely in that little room into one corner of which I’d stuffed my life, so it wasn’t really all THAT bad. But it could have been so much better, if only I’d had the nerve to make the top floor my unofficial ‘squat.’

Oddly enough, the next year I DID live, alone, in an apartment on the top floor of a building, a little place tucked under the eaves of The GingerBread House. It was…awesome. I suspect it was that place that cemented my love of tiny little homes, for it couldn’t have been more than 300 square feet of nothing but MINE. Even better – one of my best friends lived in the basement in an equally cool and very DARK apartment. Oh, we had those bases covered, and who CARED what happened on the middle floors? Not me, not by a long shot.

Do you have places you’ve lived that you remember fondly? Places that, if you think of them, you can almost feel like the person you were when you lived there? Do tell us about them in the comments, and then have a lovely day.

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