Monday, November 15, 2010

to all the rooms i've loved before ...

I was thinking of all the different places I've lived.

When you live in older houses or apartments you are coming into spaces lived in, loved in, by others. Do the former inhabitants leave traces? The only place I have lived so far that was "new" was a model home ranch house that my parents bought when I was ten. But it wasn't brand spanking new. It was the ranch-style model for a South Jersey development, so had scores of families trooping through, wondering if they could fit their lives into its spaces. It had a typical seventies-style decor, with gold wall-to-wall and a kitchenette with gold appliances and wallpaper in tones of gold, rust and olive. What was it about the seventies and flat, fall colors?


 I forgot about the dark brown cabinets.
The house before that one was a Victorian that I still wish I could scoop up today and restore to its former glory. I don't think my brother or I have forgiven my parents for taking us away from this house. It had two sets of stairs, a storm cellar with a dirt floor where my dad had his photo enlarger set up. There were some great trees—there was a crab-apple grove in the back and a gigantic willow tree in the front yard where you could hide under the weeping branches. It had an arbor with wisteria bordering a garden my mother had lovingly planted. There was a detached spooky garage and a gardener's shed that I used to sneak into and play all sorts of make-believe games. We moved when I was in second grade. They came and pulled me out of class, actually, and took me home to see a moving van in the driveway. Somehow my parents thought it would be better to not tell my brother and me until the last minute that we were moving, or not tell us at all. It wasn't better. It sucked.

Elizabeth Anne Periale, Wall Township, NJ
The house had two porches, one at the side and one at the front and a flagpole in the front yard.
Theo van Wolf & Elizabeth Ann Periale, Wall Township, NJ
By the wisteria arbor.

Other members of my family still like to go to that part of the Jersey Shore on summer vacation and on the years that I join them there for a day or two I always drive past that house, looking for a "for sale" sign. But there never is. The people who live there now cut down the willow tree and put a huge abomination of a swimming pool right in the middle of the front yard. They had to destroy the garden and the wisteria arbor and chop down the willow to fit that in. Idiots.

The house these days.

After the beautiful Victorian we lived in a small town where we could walk everywhere—to school, to the store, to the water. My brother and I didn't realize that this house was rented. Apparently my parents were trying to build or buy in the neighborhood, but it never worked out, so we moved even further south in New Jersey, leaving our new set of friends once again.

John Periale, Gertrude D'Ippolito Periale, Mary Elizabeth Winship & Elizabeth Anne Periale, Ocean Gate, NJ

The house was painted a bright, canary yellow with dark brown trim. 
Check out the striped jeans. On my brother and my mom. No need to tell you the decade.

 This was when we moved into the model ranch house. At least we finally stayed, long enough for my brother and me to finish elementary school and get through middle and high school. When I left home and went to art school in New York I lived in the dorm for a year, but was shuttling home to New Jersey so often, or out to Long Island to visit my aunt and uncle, that it never really felt like home.

I had my first home, beyond the scope of my parents, when I moved the summer between freshman and sophomore year at Parsons into a fourth floor railroad apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It was a crazy apartment. It actually tilted, so if you spilled water or dropped something on the floor that could roll, roll it would, from one wall to the other. That tilt feature became an endless source of amusement for guests and spilled drinks. My cats especially enjoyed playing with marbles. or not exactly playing, but whacking a marble and letting the apartment do most of the work. But there was also beauty in that apartment. The afternoon light, between 3 and 4 p.m. would pour in and give the wooden floors and the old moldings a gorgeous glow. No matter what was going on in my life at the time, just hanging out in the front room in the afternoon was always a soothing and reinvigorating experience.


The afternoon light of Park Slope, Brooklyn.
When I left New York for Washington, D.C. I always seemed to live somewhere near the zoo in Northwest. The apartments of D.C. are not that much different from New York, except that the rooms are a tad more spacious, but with lower ceilings. As much as I loved living in Washington, the outside surroundings were more enthralling than our indoor ones. The trees, flora, buildings and statuary were what appealed to me most.


Always bright and full of light
I'm still getting used to our new life and my new space in Florida, but I can't complain about the view. I find myself outside here even more than Washington. And I'm an indoorsy type by nature, Bookish, computerish.


Getting ready to walk on the beach.
But I could walk by the beach forever. It's always changing, always offering up new discoveries.
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