Coming home from school was a bit of an adventure. Kenwood School was on Dorchester Avenue on the South Side of Chicago. The best part of walking home was going by St Paul’s Episcopal Church where I was in the girls’ choir. Mr. Rayfield was the choir director and also a piano teacher. He was very strict and shouted a lot. My parents finally said it was OK if I stopped my piano lessons with Mr. Rayfield. He made me cry. I hated crying in front of people. He would just raise his arms and shout, “No, No. You must play it softly and then crescendo.” It was enough that I could play it all since he was ready to shout at any moment. I really liked the piano. My grandmother in Colorado played the piano. Sometimes she would play the piano for hours. It wasn’t like practicing at all because when she played it was beautiful, almost as if she were in another life.
Oh dear, here I am walking past the church and falling into a day dream. I have to be careful to think about what I am doing. But now I can cross Farmers Field. I don’t know why they call it that as it isn’t a farm at all. Maybe it once was. But if I go kitty corner thru the field it seems faster. Sometimes I have to use the sidewalk if some boys are playing baseball. But not today. Coming up to Kenwood Avenue, that is just a block from Kimbark. Now walking along 49th Street. When I climb fences behind our house I can see into the other people’s yard. Dr Apt lives directly behind us. So it is easy to see in his yard. He is the doctor for Tommy, Kathy and me, but not for Mother and Dad.
Now I take a right hand turn onto Kimbark. I know just about all the people who live on this block because I sell them girls scout cookies. One lady on the other side of the street hides when she sees me come onto their porch–even before I ring the bell. Maybe it is because one time she came to the door she was acting strange. Swaying and holding on to the door. She kept saying I should not come to the door so early in the morning. I did not tell her but it was after 4 o’clock in the afternoon. She even was hiccupping. I don’t go there anymore.
My best friend, Marcia, lives across the street. Marcia is a year younger than me. I love to go to Marcia’s house. In her bedroom, Marcia applies lipstick, then rouge and eyebrow pencil. I watch her in the mirror. Mother tells me it is not good to wear makeup because I am too young. I don’t care about that. It just takes too much time. I would rather think about things like how I could go on a train to visit my grandmother.
Here I am back at 4823. I walk up the steps across the porch. The porch goes around the side. Mother can stop the car there and unload groceries. I love this house. We moved in when I was in second grade. Then not much furniture except for the square baby piano or is it a baby square piano. It came with the house.
Let me introduce you to my house. It is big with 3 floors, five bedrooms on the second floor, one apartment on the third floor, four bathrooms and one basement. The first floor has the kitchen and its pantries. Also the big entry hall, music room, living room and dining room. Look, see how the sun comes in thru those high windows and makes rainbows across the floor. Daddy said it is called leaded glass. Just like a lead pencil.
Yes, that is the first fireplace in the hall. We don’t use this one but at Christmas, we hang our stockings to be filled by Santa. We have more fireplaces in the living room, dining room and upstairs in Mother and Dad’s room. Here on the second floor is our other telephone. It was so funny when we first lived here, I would pick up the phone and someone else would be talking. I ran downstairs and no-one was on the downstairs phone. Mother told me we had a “party line”. When I listened, it was no party. So dull that I would just hang up quietly. We don’t have that anymore. I mean the phone is only for our family.
Of the five bedrooms on the second floor, I have slept in three of them. All of them have stories. Some are really big and others are just medium big. This was my parents’ room when they brought home my little sister four years ago. You see this place right here. That is where her crib was. Now if we look out the big window, we can see the back yard. In the summer we put up a tent and pretend we live there. We even put cots inside.
Anyway I know you don’t have much time so let’s go down to the kitchen. We start down the front stairs, then in the middle through this door we take the back stairs. The back stairs don’t have any carpeting. They are just wood. Then we come thru the tiny room where the telephone is. It has a door to the entry hall, a door to the basement and this door to the kitchen.
I love the kitchen. See, we even have a dishwasher. That is new. It’s so fun when the dishwasher finishes, the top pops up and steam comes out. Just like our breath outside in winter. Can you see we even have two pantries. This back one is where my uncle hides the garlic. My mother keeps red cherries in bottles and olives back here. My brother loves the red cherries. I think they are yuck. The front pantry is my favorite. We keep all the glasses and china in these cabinets with glass doors. My mother puts the cake right here after she makes it. It has a cover. She has a special glass plate that she uses only for the cake.
Here’s a secret. After we have cake for dinner, it goes back right here. Then a few people in the family sneak back, open the lid and slice out a sliver of cake. Just a tiny sliver. I think we all do that. So that would be seven or eight people.
You have to go now. Will you be back another day?