|The apartment building I lived in|
on West 16th street.
Write about your childhood home. This is one of those writing prompts one sees time and time again. It makes sense. Most people have an experience of spending most of their childhood in a single home. My husband grew up in two homes. My cousins on Long Island lived in one. My niece has lived in two homes and the one she’s in now will likely be the one she leaves behind when she goes off to college.
I did not grow up in a single home so, when asked to describe my childhood home a blur of images comes to mind. The railroad apartment on East 15th street with the unusable fireplace and two doors although I only remember our using the one that led into the living room. The brownstone on West 16th street with the teeny-tiny kitchen that was so small the refrigerator was in the living room. Then my mother married Larry Block and we lived in the Bronx for a couple of years before moving back to Manhattan where we lived on West End Avenue and 88th in perhaps the largest apartment although my bedroom was the so narrow there was hardly space for my twin bed and a bookcase. After the marriage was annulled, we lived on West 79th very briefly before moving to Park Avenue and 96th street, a building that was owned by the hospital where my mother worked. The rent was reduced to allow the medical staff to live within walking distance of the hospital to avoid the problem of public transportation strikes or shut-downs due to inclement weather.
So which of these is my childhood home? I remember reading a prompt that suggested choosing the home of your heart, the one that you feel was your childhood home. It makes sense because there are places that emotionally hold us close, that we think of as home even if we did not live there very long.
Unfortunately, this did not work for me. I honestly can’t say that any one of the places I’ve lived resonated more deeply. I remember the paint cat paw-prints that walked away from the fireplace because my mother had painted the hearth and, before the paint could dry, our cat walked through the paint. I remember sleeping in a bunk bed with my mother in the upper bunk and me in the lower. I remember the duplex home with the weeping willow tree in the back yard and the canopy bed. I remember the architectural details and the small elevator of the apartment with the narrow bedroom. I remember the small apartment so close to school that I could leave five minutes before I had to be there and still walk there in time. I remember the view from one apartment from which I could see Central Park and even part of the Empire State Building.
Which is why, every time I see this journaling prompt asking me to “describe your childhood home” is disconcerting. Am I truly so rootless that I have no sense of home? If so, what does “home” mean without a place on a map to pinpoint? Until recently, I had nothing to describe but, not so long ago, I had an experience that drove home what “home” means to me.
To Be Continued on Thursday