Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lincoln house, continued

In my reminiscing about my family's years at the house on Lincoln Avenue in St. Paul, I neglected to take you through the other, most interesting rooms.

So, to continue our little tour, off the dining room was another room that might be described as a den. However, it was never actually used as a den, but served as my Dad's home office as it had a built-in desk. A black Royal typewriter sat atop a metal stand, and a green swivel chair made it look pretty official.

But the room had other uses as well. A baby changing table made it "baby headquarters" as my new little brother arrived into the family. It also served as an "ironing room" for the many baskets of ironing that seemed to multiply by themselves. The ironing board was kept at the ready in this room, awaiting the laundry was that rolled up after being sprinkled with water from an old 7-Up bottle.

And, if a bottle of Mogen David concord wine and a few stemmed wine glasses qualify as a liquor cabinet, then, yes, that was kept there as well.

The second floor could be accessed either through the kitchen or the living room.

There were three bedrooms and a very large, spacious bathroom that was about the size of a bedroom. We had an old-fashioned porcelain sink; no double-sink vanities for us, though we sure could have used them. A plain tub and toilet, linoleum flooring, a couple of wall medicine cabinets, no frills.

We had a clothes chute in the bathroom which continued down through the kitchen. As the clothes made their way down the chute, they would sometime land on a pregnant cat, about to give birth. Or a new mama cat and five or six little ones. Then, of course, we wouldn't disturb the laundry.

The only other bathroom in the house was in the basement. We hated it (cement floor, cobwebs, no door), but when it was needed, we were glad to have it, pulling the chain to flush as the tank was mounted above the toilet.

Dad had a workshop for his tools and woodworking equipment. He was a handyman-wannabe, good at patching and improvising repairs. He was creative in his woodworking, and eventually refinished the third floor attic, dividing it to make a bedroom for me.  My very own bedroom! He even built in two shadow-box shelves.

The attic, we'd all agree, was our favorite part of the house, and was accessible through the upstairs bathroom. It was our general playroom, but was transformed into a dentist's office, a library, a school, a store, or anything else our imaginations inspired us to create.

Our doll house, a desk, some old furniture, shelves for our plastic dishes, a miniature wooden ironing board and an iron that actually plugged in and heated (well, slightly warmed) made playing "house" seem quite realistic for us girls.

Remember, my little brother was downstairs, never far from Mama's apron strings, running his little Tonka trucks up and down the window seat.

Although we tussled, argued, and generally questioned each other's existence, there was much laughter and fun coming from that third story. Many happy hours were spent there together, usually when we couldn't be outdoors.

I end the tour with the outdoors.  Our back yard was large, bordered by shrubs which created privacy. Unique to the yard was a stone fireplace, set slightly askew next to the large vegetable garden.

Gardening occurred haphazardly, I guess depending on my Dad's ability to devote time to the effort. But on a good year, we enjoyed tomatoes, carrots, and a large rhubarb patch. Sometimes the produce made its way to the table, or the blue speckled canner; other times we'd simply pull it out of the ground and eat it on the spot.  Especially rhubarb.

There were two apple trees in the yard, and the side of the house contained plum trees and Lily-of-the-Valley, still one of my favorite springtime flowers.

The front yard was set on a hill and was the neighborhood gathering place for the games we played at dusk. The sloping of the hill, the shrubs and pine tree made it perfect for hide-and-seek.

I once described my years growing up to a friend, who, after listening patiently to my recounting, concluded that it doesn't get any better than that.

So true.