I spent the first five years of my life in the little red brick house at the top of a hill. Next door was Aunt Clair who played go fish with me and painted my nails ballerina pink. Grandma, Aunt Karen, and Uncle Timmy lived at the bottom of the hill. Karen listened to all my dreams and took all my secrets to the grave. Timmy called me squirt and usually ignored me. But Grandma made me be brave when I was too scared to play the games of life or the games of childhood, she held my hand only for a moment until I could catch my breath and then she told me to get back in there.
She lived in a two-story white house at the bottom of the hill. A wonderful house with roses and iris in the front yard and children’s voices floating through the air. They came from everywhere to play in the street and in the yard. They played cops and robbers and chase and hide and seek. And they stayed and played until well after the street lights went on. They stayed until mother’s started calling names from the darkness.
The house was across the street from Burt and Debbie’s store it was a little dark musty smelling room where all the items were behind the counter and you had to ask for them. You would ask Debbie for some green beans and she would turn around and get the green beans and put them next to the cash register and then you would ask for some flower and she would get the flower off the shelf and put that on the counter and you would go through that ritual for your entire grocery list. Of course, they didn’t sell any meat; you had to go to the butcher shop for that, and to the drugstore for anything beyond some aspirin, but you could buy a Pepsi there. I went there by myself when I was only four and bought one for my mother. I was so proud.
I loved that little red house on the hill at night you could see the city lights, all the way down to Colfax. My favorite was the neon dairy cow. In the summer we would sit on the porch all the ladies would come over and gossip we would drink Pepsi and eat sunflower seeds or gooseberries right off the bush. Grandma would be there and so would Aunt Karen if she didn’t have plans with her friends, aunt Clair would climb the fence and come over and all the neighborhood women would sit on our front porch and gossip.
Our last summer in the red brick house on the hill had my Uncle Timmy and his friend Donny Thompson and some other boys spend the nights looking for a prowler while all the ladies sat on the porch telling them they had better just go home and let the police handle things. The prowler had been to our house a couple of times. Mom would call the police and Daddy would have to come home from work. Aunt Claire would climb the fence in her nightgown and bring my new cousin Aaron with her. Uncle Burt was at work too. Mommy would shake and cry and I would have to sleep in mommy’s bed or on the couch. It was a long summer; mommy cried a lot even in the daytime and every loud noise made her jump. We couldn’t move fast enough. Even after they caught the prowler.
The little red brick house was built in the 1800s with its beautiful fireplace. The rent was cheap and it was close to Grandma that’s why we lived there. But when crime went up in the neighborhood and bussing became an issue in the city. We moved to the suburbs. The little red house with its view of downtown is now prime real estate. Grandma’s house at the bottom of the hill is gone and so is Aunt Claire’s both are now parking lots. Burt and Debbie’s little store is now a high-rise apartment building. But, the little red brick house at the top of the hill is still there.