I visited my family in New York for Thanksgiving. My parents now live on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Until about ten years ago, they lived in a free-standing Victorian in the Ditmas Park section of Flatbush, Brooklyn. That's the house I grew up in - my family moved there when I was eight weeks old.
During the holiday, we took my nephew to the New York Aquarium, in Coney Island. On the way back, we detoured past the old house on East 18th Street.
It looks a lot different now than it did when we lived there. In our day, the shingles were brown, as shingles should be. The trim was white, and the roof shingles were red. And those wooden banisters on either side of the front steps weren't there. But it's still the same house; the ghosts of my childhood lurk on the porch and under the eaves. There are some unchanged elements that can't be seen in this picture. The wrought-iron work on the front door is still there, though also painted that same awful periwinkle that now sullies the trim. Over on the right side of the porch there still stands a trellis to which rose bushes clung when I was little. And the shrubbery is basically unchanged.
The double windows above the porch (and the window diagonally placed next to them) were my room. (I didn't have an air conditioner when I was a child.) The tiny window to the left was my mother's little bathroom; not even a half bathroom actually, just a sink where she could put on and take off her makeup. The double windows to the left of that were my parents' bedroom. My brother's rooms were in the back of the house. The front-facing triple window in the attic was our playroom, a multipurpose room in which my brothers and I stored many of our toys and games and the books from our childhood.
The house has had two owners, I think, since my parents left. I suppose it is their prerogative to add banisters and paint the house all kinds of inappropriate colors, but I would love to see it once more as it was when my parents left it. My brother Matthew, who is an excellent photographer, took a thorough series of black and white photographs throughout the house as my parents were packing and moving out, so we fortunately have that chronicle of the house's details. Often, when I'm having trouble sleeping, I will take a mental walk through some portion of the house, concentrating on minutia - what the hall carpet felt and smelled like; the shape of the tear in the windowshade that hung in the small window at the top of the kitchen stairs; the tile pattern in the bathroom floor. In this way preserve the house as it was, regardless of the changes successive owners put it through.