I sat in the backyard and looked over the hill between the trees and down over the roofs of the houses on the next street over. It was quiet. The kind of quiet you find in a college town when most of the students have gone home and the only people left are the hobos and laid off University workers. I lit a small fire in the ring, starting with some leaves and bark shavings and gradually working up to twigs and then as the flames started looking for more fuel, a few logs. The sun was setting, it’s golden light broken by the leaves and branches of the small woods that separated the back of this house from the next block. It was odd to find this small patch of woods in the middle of a very urban setting. The house next door was abandoned and boarded up. The previous owner was in jail, drugs and prostitution was involved. I called the police several nights ago because someone had been there and pried the plywood boards off of the back entrance. It was probably someone looking for a place to stay. There were so many people out of work. Out of luck and out of a place to stay. The house was supposedly on a list with the city to be razed. It was considered “condemned” but it looked just fine to me. Sometime things don’t make sense. I went back to my apartment to find a few hot dogs, and noticed that the railing that ran up the side of the house seemed a bit wobbly. I’d have to ask his Dad about fixing it.
Dad had purchased this house for me and my brothers so we could go to school. He bought it real cheap, the previous owner purchasing it out of foreclosure. Dad wouldn’t purchase a foreclosure himself. He thought it was wrong to profit from someone else’s misfortune. But there was an owner between him and the foreclosure so that made it legit again. Dad could fix anything. He was horrible at making money, but he could fix anything. But, life costs more than money so that was ok. And he was a perfectionist. If he was painting a wall, the wall had to be free of imperfections before he touched it, which meant days of skimming with mud, sanding and cleaning up. So a wall that would have taken me two hours to paint, ended up taking a week. We always got by on whatever we could. Back home, Mom went to local farmers to find vegetables in large quantities to can in the heat of August and September. She still brought mason jars full of tomato sauce and relishes when she visited. She shopped at the local Goodwill for our clothes. She recycled them there, too. The three of us boys were growing so fast at one point, she would just visit every month and turn in the youngest ones jeans and buy used denims for the oldest, me. Mom was so well connected in the church and school community that between the Goodwill and her network of other Moms, she pretty much swapped and traded everything we wore until we were 13. At that point, we found jobs to do to make some money to buy things that everyone else was wearing. There were four of us, the three older boys and our little sister. While we were growing up, my sister had a room to herself and the three of us were in the master bedroom. My parents stayed in the bedroom downstairs that was originally built as a guest bedroom. Now that we have moved into this place, my parents have moved into our room.