A lot of the stuff that happened to me when I was younger is a bit fuzzy now - I think that happens to everyone. The stuff of adulthood is much more complex and stressful than the stuff of childhood, and it makes me hope that if/when I have children, they get to reading this at an age way earlier than I myself am writing it, and it motivates them to do the same for themselves. I never had a diary, or a journal, when I was growing up. In fact, a lot of things that people take for granted now were not around when I was a kid. That might be another post, but for now I want to try and convey some memories I have that did in fact stay with me until today.
I remember one day when I was approaching school age when my mother was trying to ensure that I remembered pertinent information about my life to that point. Things such as my address, my phone number, my name, stuff of that nature. In fact it might only be those things, plus one more: I was apparently also told about a spare key hidden outside of the house that I never remembered until it was shown to me again in my teen years after I had to break into the house one afternoon. For some reason, that never stuck.
I can remember a lot of things from when I was really young. First of all, I remember the basement of the house being clean. That sounds like a joke, but my mother was a lazy woman, and figured that if she cleaned the house once in her life, that everyone from then on owed it to her to clean it constantly from then on. As a result, the basement gradually (over years) became overcrowded with crap, but I'll get to that as things progress here. I clearly can see the time when i used to write on a small blackboard, complete with tripod, in the basement, switching hands when one got tired. I didn't know at the time that being ambidextrous was a big deal, and it didn't really matter to me, especially since it was taught out of me in grade one by a teacher named Mrs. Charleston. Again, I'm getting ahead of myself. Back to the basement.
I had a tiny little chair, and a tiny Formica table, that I used to use when downstairs. I did puzzles on it, and I clearly can picture a puzzle that remained in my mind for decades. It was a barnyard-themed picture, with horses and kids, and the puzzle picture was drawn by an artist who put little dots on the end of his letters. The name of the artist stayed with me, and when I was in my thirties I went searching on eBay for anything drawn by Thelwell. Turns out he has books too, just discovered that now, but I did find that he was quite a popular artist in Britain. I think that's where both my love of jigsaw puzzles and crowded, humorous pictures for my jigsaw puzzles originated. I fool around with them on an irregular basis, even now, and my current favourite artist for my jigsaws is Mordillo, with his Tornado puzzle being my number one classic. Sadly, that particular title is no longer available, but there are others, and at the left side there you'll see a link to one of them. Love his stuff, reminds me of Sergio Aragones work in the margins of MAD Magazine. I can do puzzles with thousands of pieces, as long as I like the artwork, and this stuff represents what I like to do.
Besides doing puzzles in the basement, I also remember playing a lot as a kid down there. Don't get me wrong, I've up until now described the basement only as a place that got cluttered with junk as the years went by. Let me clarify: The house at 23 Denham was built in the 60s, and in that decade the power of television was not as apparent as it became in the late 70s and 80s. As a result, the homes built in my neighbourhood had no room specifically designed or planned for a family gathering site around the television. Families had to figure out their needs and adapt their houses around them. In our case, the basement became that room, and my father altered the room to suit it. First of all, he erected a wall (two-by-fours with fake wood panelling sheets nailed to them) to enclose the furnace and laundry area, and then walled off the spot where the downstairs bathroom was to be installed. Then, he placed a stand-alone counter beside the wall in the laundry room, cut through the wall above the stand, and the television sat in the laundry room on the counter, and was viewed in the wall in the main room of the basement. For some reason there was also a counter running along one of the outside walls of the bathroom enclosure, maybe intended as a workbench or something. Either way, the bathroom never got started and that room became storage.
So, the basement was well-lit, and meant to be a family room for the house. It was that way for a few years, but as you'll see in later posts it morphed into something quite different. For those early, pre-school years, it was a pretty happy room. I read down there, I played down there, things were great. Two things did stand out for me though. One was that I had a Sesame Street book, entitled "A La Peanut Butter Sandwiches." I think it featured The Count, as the phrase in the title was supposed to replace Abracadabra when doing a magic trick. Anyway, I remember that book, and I also remember losing a book down there. I can't remember which book it was, might have even been the same book, but it got dropped behind a couch down there, and though i asked my parents to get it for me it was always "We'll get it later," and they never did. Keeping in mind that this was the early-mid 70s, and given the types of people my parents were (and I hope the readers are beginning to get a clear picture out of what I've written so far), I hope it comes as no surprise that when I had the need to move that couch in the year 2000, I actually expected to find that book back there. It wasn't, but then I remembered that the couch had been re-upholstered a couple of years earlier. Regardless, when I dropped that book accidentally behind that couch, it might as well have left the planet.
I remember playing with glue. Not in a bad way, playing with it by taking bits of felt and gluing them to a large piece of construction paper, making a shark fin under a big sun. It was a whole beach scene, but I specifically remember the shark fin and the sun. That particular piece of artwork hung on the door into the basement bathroom area until the 2000s as well. That bathroom area was where my toys when I was really young were stored. I remember a Fisher Price castle that had a secret room behind a swivelling staircase, and I remember a big box full of miscellaneous LEGO pieces. I still buy LEGO for myself...well, not since 2005, but if I had the means I still would. The prices they want for the worthwhile sets are astronomical, but that's another post. My mother would make a house out of LEGO for me at night, and then in the morning I would destroy it while making explosion sound effects with my mouth. That may have contributed to her hatred for me, which I'm certain was real and vibrant at some point, but at the time was not visible.
There are more memories to share, but this post is quite long already, so I'll continue another time.