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The following tale was my very first real blog post, written on a non-public blog that I only shared with my family. I got the idea to re-post it when my husband drew a diagram of his childhood home for me this evening. I watched without hesitation how he drew every window, nook and cranny from memory. I recalled how I had done the exact same thing while writing this post, and I figured since nobody had really read it, that I’d make it public now. While my childhood home had its flaws, I’d buy it in a second if I had the funds and it was on the market.

I grew up in a 3 story house – what’s known as a four-square – with a big front porch and a backyard big enough to play whiffle ball in. My father being the nature love he is, refused to cut or trim back any of the trees or bushes surrounding our house. The overgrown foliage gave the house a clumsy, somewhat scruffy appearance which embarrassed me as a kid. That one criticism behind, it was an awesome home.

From what I understand, ours was the first house built on the block way back when Leonia was in it’s infancy. It was the farmhouse of the Moore family and my whole block was an orchard. I remembering arguing with a kid who lived on my block about this fact. He claimed HIS house was the first and original home of the Moore family. I was never sure if I was right or not until way later when I saw an old photograph at a Leonia Historical exhibit. The photo showed MY house standing alone with oodles of land around it and a caption stating that it was the original Moore family home. I mentally stuck my tongue out at that kid with smug satisfaction.

161-1st-floor2The downstairs consisted of 4 rooms, and you could walk a complete circle around the entire 1st floor. Foyer lead to kitchen which lead to living room #1, which flowed into living room #2 which lead back into the foyer. The floors were originally wood, but we had carpet installed sometime during my early teenage years. I remember this because I spent most of the day staring at the carpet man’s assistant, who was very cute. The foyer held the piano, a china cabinet, and the main staircase.

Our kitchen was big with formica countertops, knotty pine cabinetry and a huge table with a matching formica top and wooden benches built in around it. I’ll never forget that formica. It was light blue with little boomerang shapes in gray and dark blue. I spent a lot of time staring at that pattern in the formica during dinnertime lectures, phone conversations, or when stumped with a homework problem. The back of the kitchen was made up a long counter which housed the sink and was flanked by our giant white stove, and the back door leading out to the backyard. There was also a little nook which housed a broom closet and our washing machine.

Next to this little nook was the back living room, where we spent most of our time because that’s where the television was. It also had the fireplace, and the long wooden mantelpiece that housed Twinkletown during Christmas, and various other knicknacks during the rest of the year. In this room I first discovered MTV. In this room I served daddy Sanka and cake while he lay on the floor doing leg exercises. In this room I ate the cream out of countless Oreo’s and then threw the cookie parts behind the couch. In this room Mom screamed at me after discovering a small stockpile of discarded cookies. It was where we hung out with our family and our friends.

The front living room was somewhat more formal. It was mostly used for overflow when we had a party or on holidays, and as the place the Bucek kids would talk on the teen phone or listen to music on the stereo. But we never really did much else in there. It may be in part because of THE PICTURE. One wall of the front living room was adorned with fake wood panelling. This was our family gallery where portraits and photos hung, the largest of which was dead center and quite prominent. THE PICTURE was a huge frame which encased my grandparent’s wedding photo. It had a handwritten placard inside with the date of the marriage and above the photo was a crown of dried flowers that you can see my grandmother wearing in the wedding photo. As kids we would horse around in that room or the adjoining foyer and my father would say to us, “God help you if this glass gets broken.” There were times I envisioned a carelessly thrown ball cracking the glass and the contents disintegrating into a fine, grey dust.

161-2nd-floor1Upstairs there were 4 bedrooms and a bath. The bedroom occupants changed over the years I lived there. In the beginning my parents had one room, my Aunt Carol had one of the small bedrooms, Stefan (the only boy) had the other small bedroom, and Wendy, Judy and I shared the largest bedroom. After a while Stefan moved up into the attic, which was semi-unfinished but did have a bathroom. Wendy then got her own room painted hot pink with shelves and a closet with a window. I thought that was so cool. Eventually my Aunt Carol moved to her own apartment and Judy got her own room which she painted orange. I remember Beatles posters and incense when I think of that room. This finally left me with my own room which in later years would be blue with wall to wall Leif Garrett posters.

The basement at 161 Oakdene was a damp, dark cavern that could be scary yet interesting. Dad had a little workshop down there that was always good for an hour’s worth of exploration on a boring day. There were shelves and shelves of jars and boxes with a variety of screws, washers, nails and bolts. We also had a pantry in the basement which consisted of a row of shelves where mom would store extra canned goods and boxes of food stuffs. With the exception of cans of tuna, I believe most of the items on these shelves spoiled before we could use them, which drove my father crazy.

The rest of the basement was crammed with discarded furniture, stuff packed in boxes, holiday decorations and our dryer. It amazed me at times the vast quantities of family junk we had stored in that house between the attic and basement. There were days I remember poking around in the mess to see what was there. Sometimes you found an old toy or a piece of furniture that you would reclaim for your room. Some of the junk was buried so deep you couldn’t even get to it.

There was also a bathroom in the basement. This was the last-chance-I-can’t-possibly-hold-it bathroom. It was a narrow room with a stained toilet and a bare bulb hanging from a wire. One of the walls was the stone foundation of the basement, which didn’t even continue up to the ceiling…there was bare earth towards the top of the wall. It was a damp, dark, scary place to be, and you tried to squeeze out your pee as fast as you could.

I loved this home – loved it. It had character and charm and it fit our family to a tee. I went to look at it a few years back when we were up in New Jersey. I was dismayed to see a very goth looking dude sulkily walk down the front path and up the street. I thought to myself, “that kid has no business living in my house.” He just didn’t seem to fit – to me it’s a house of The Brady Bunch and All in the Family and Bee Gee’s albums. It sorta bums me out that Marilyn Manson may have been blasted in what was once my bedroom.

I’ll let you in on a little secret..I still have a key to the front door of this house. I’m sure it wouldn’t work if I ever had the balls to walk up those front steps and give it a try, but it’s comforting for me to have it. I used that key a zillion times after coming home from school, dates, and late nights in New York City, and somehow just don’t want to part with it. Oh how I’d love to walk through that house again…open closet doors and cabinets and peek at that bathroom in the basement. Who knows? Maybe there’s still a can of tuna way back in the corner of the pantry shelf.

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