In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Our House.” –
What are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Describe your house. What did it look like? How did it smell? What did it sound like? Was it quiet like a library, or full of the noise of life? Tell us all about it, in as much detail as you can recall.
Hard to Find
I’ll have to bend the ‘rules’ a little bit on this one, as technically the first home I lived in was a small apartment barely big enough for 2 people, let alone my mother, my older sister, my father and finally, me. My younger brother was born 2.5 years after me, and before that my parents bought a house, further away from the city centre but in a better place for raising a family. Close to the harbour, close to a large-ish park and, most importantly for my mother, i suspect, around the corner from her parents house. It was also situated maybe 5 minutes walk away from the kindergarten my brother and I would spend a good amount of time until we were old enough for school.
The actual house was a 2-story affair with a basement. An oak tree, or I think it was oak, tree species has never been my forte, grew by the front door, making our house easily recognizable even when approaching from a fair distance. It had black tiles on the roof, that was periodically replaced with new, glossy ones that would then dull, be replaced and so on. Red bricks encircled decently sized windows that looked into our living room. We had a front yard, but it was really small and we never used it for anything. It was there and we occasionally did some work on it, but that was the extent of that. There was also the backyard, which was a good deal larger, big enough to have small areas all to its own, and it was closed off from the world by a fence around the entire length. The area immediately by back door of the house was effectively our porch, where we would go to just hang out in the garden, or eat dinner in the summer months. Another area was shaded by our own apple tree, that sadly never produced anything beyond a small sour lump. My own room, for the majority of our life in that house anyways, overlooked the street that ran in front of our house.
The city we lived in was medium-sized for Denmark, but as Denmark is a small country (in our entire country, there’s only 2 million people more than New York City) on a global scale, it’s a small town. But our house sat right next to one of the biggest roads in the city, one that people would take if they were going north out of the city or going to the harbour. So a constant throughout our lives there was the noise of cars driving by, or at worst, the vibration of a truck driving by. In the evenings, the steady beeping of the pedestrian crossing. In the summer, sea-gulls would occasionally fly far enough from the harbour for us to hear them. Smell-wise, there was nothing remarkable, unless a sewage truck drove by. The harbour was some 10 minutes walk away, but still too far for any smell of the ocean to reach us.
The earliest memory I have of the house is having rabbits. I don’t recall any of their names, appearances or how long we had them, just that we had a cage of rabbits in our backyard. Either before or after we no longer had them, we bought cats. 2 of them. One that was generally amiable, Oscar I believe it was, and another. Who was not amiable. The kind of cat who wanders the neighborhood just looking for a fight, and frequently found them. As far as I recall, both of them eventually got sick and were put down, fighter first and Oscar later. But by that time we had gotten more cats. The amount of cats living in our house would vary throughout our time there, fluctuating between 2-5 at its top. One of them was my first personal pet, a male cat with fur so dark brown that for years I swore it was black. At the same time we also had a pair of ‘twin’ cats. I say ‘twin’ because while they were like each other at birth, they quickly became quite different. One became skinny, nervous and reserved, and the other became chubby and attention-seeking. The black cat lived for a long time, but I never quite found out how it died; a few days before I was due to come home from boarding school for the weekend, I was told he had gotten ill, though not seriously so. But the next morning, the cat was gone. We never found it or heard of someone who did. The skinny cat was eventually taken to a new home. It was growing ever thinner and more nervous, so the abundance of other pets was causing it stress. As far as I know, in its new home it became a healthier and happier cat. The chubby cat is, to date, the only pet I can remember that simply died of old age while in our house. We knew it was poorly and would not have much time left. When we left the kitchen after dinner, it was sleeping quietly in its cat-bed. Later the same evening, I entered the kitchen, presumably to make some tea or popcorn. And, checking in on our aging cat, found it to have fallen into its last nap. Out of lives.
Before all that, but after my black cat had left us, we got a dog. I don’t quite remember the whole context, but we were looking to get bigger TV, one of those fancy flat ones. While my family drove out to look around, I stayed at home, probably reading or playing a game. When they got home, getting a dog was suddenly the talk of the day. At the time, I was decidedly a cat person, but I have also never been good at opposing other people. So we got the dog. Best time I ever just agreed to something. We all quickly grew to love it, and as getting a dog is wont to do, it became a new center of our lives. In the following years, I got much more of that vaunted ‘fresh air’ than I had ever before. I loved that dog to bits, and still do. To date, him, and his puppy that we later got, are the main things I miss about living at home.
As mentioned, the house also had a basement. Said basement was accessed by a regular stair by the back door, entering the basement via the long middle corridor. Every other room in the basement was accessed through that corridor. Every single time I went into that basement, which was relatively often as our main gaming room used to be in the basement, I imagined I would see a ghost or a monster at the end of the hallway. An active imagination + a dark hallway has never been a fun combination as a child.
In the last couple years of living in the house, I changed schools. From public school, where I could easily walk on my own each morning, to boarding school which was in a different city so I was driven there in a car. Gymnasium was the last place I attended while living there, and that was close enough that 15 minutes on a bike was usually enough. But it did not escape my notice that my distance to whichever educational place I was attending was growing longer and longer, though 15 minutes was nowhere near as rough as the 30 minutes of bike or hour and a half of public transport which would follow when we moved house.
Eventually, in the wake of my mothers parents growing old and my parents realising the issues of growing old in a house highly dependent on navigating stairs, we decided to move. We would be in the same city, but further to the north, in a more suburb-y area. Moving was a pain, having to clean the entire house and put our entire life in cardboard boxes. But overall I was not hugely bothered by the prospect of leaving my childhood home behind, though I was worried that our pets would not enjoy the new home as much. My brother thought I was being weird for that, how could I not feel sad about leaving our home. It was around that time that I realised that, to me, home was not so much the building as the people. Now, I live in an apartment, sure, that is technically my adress. But it is not really my home. My family live elsewhere, along with my beloved dogs. My friends don’t live in the apartment. It’s a place I go back to to sleep, work or relax, but it is not truly my home. Just like that, our old home was simply a frame for my family and the friends I made in that time. So when we finally packed up the car and left my childhood building for the last time, I was not leaving home. I was following my home to a new building. A building where, it would turn out, I would meet people still important to me today, got a new dog, and finally moved away from on my first time really living on my own.