November 19, 2010 – My parents told me recently that they plan to move in the spring. The house is too large for them now, the neighborhood is changing, and it’s the right thing to do. Still, I’m sad when I think “we” won’t live there anymore.
We moved into the house when I was a few weeks old so it’s the only childhood home I’ve known. The street was populated by families with lots of children, there was always someone to play with, and many of the neighbors were second families to me.
The environment was Norman Rockwell like, but with alcohol because the grownups liked to party. We had wiffle ball games in the street on Sundays where the adults played and the children cheered from lawn chairs that lined the pavement, and block parties every Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day. Not to mention the water balloon fights and the Big Wheel races that my brother always seemed to win.
The family across the street had tracks in their yard with a miniature train that could transport about five or six kids at a time and it was a treat to be invited for a ride. And there was one incredibly hot summer when I remember many of the neighbors in our pool floating on large blocks of ice while listening to Frank Sinatra.
Every Tuesday night back then I would babysit my younger sister and brother, and it would always end with the three of us in a corner smacking each other with kitchen towels, kicking and screaming. I can’t remember why we fought, but it did.
I shared the middle bedroom with my younger sister. We swore it was haunted because sometimes our beds would shake and feel like they were rising off the box spring. I’m not exaggerating … and to this day I still can’t think of a reasonable explanation.
The parties hosted in the house through the years were incredible. My parents threw some epic events, and so did the four of us kids every time they went away. As a teenager, coming in late on a Saturday night, it wasn’t uncommon to be met at the door by my parents and other neighbors in a train line whistling and laughing as they made their way outside and down the street.
The house is over 100 years old now, with a high wrought iron railing surrounding the porch that was great for climbing. One spring day comes to mind when my sister and I were hanging off of it like a couple of monkeys (we were both teenagers at the time) and my mother was running up and down the porch steps (exercising). People in passing cars probably thought we were crazy, but the neighbors were used to us.
Although they may have thought differently the day my older sister left her son behind in an infant seat and ran like a banshee from the front porch down the street, just to avoid a few swarming bees while screaming, “Save my baby!”
I also spent many summer nights on that porch with my father listening to Phillies games on the radio and swatting the mosquitoes away. I think it’s the place I’ll miss most.
Life in the McMaster house certainly wasn’t dull. I know I’ll always have those memories and I’ll try to take comfort in the closing line of The House at Pooh Corner:
“ Wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the forest, a little boy and his bear will always be playing.”