••• Saturday, October 14, 2006

Screening Calls 

S is for Screen Door

While looking for old photos for earlier on in the alphabet, I came across this picture:

Well, the screen door wasn't the focus of the original picture. It quickly became the focus of my emotions when I saw it. That's the screen door of my childhood home. A filtered memory, if you will.

The screen door of my childhood home had a distinct sound when it opened. A subtle screech. When it closed, it whacked one time loud, followed by two tiny bounces. If a parent was in earshot of the first whack, and the child who caused the whack was in earshot of the parent, invariably said child would hear "Don't slam the door!" If said child causing said whack was exiting the home, said words of parent fell on deaf doors.

Our screen door had a distinct smell. A kind of metal meets dirt. At the end of a long dusty summer, said smell could leave a tiny screen print on the forehead and nose tip of a toddler. Or 5th grader. Or high schooler. Or college student on summer sabbatical.

Like most screen doors of that time, ours had one of those loopy latch things at the top. Over a fifteen year period, that loopy latch thing kept 5 babies safely in the house while their mother did dishes or laundry or held a morning koffee klatch with neighbors. Not that those toddlers didn't try, as evidenced by the screen being forever stretched and bowed out, just about toddler height.

Our house had western exposure with no shade. The design of the home was akin to those 1-1/2 story American bungalows found in cities across the country. Ours had a bit more floorspace than those homes, but was still pretty small. And stuffy. During the hottest of the hot summer, sleeping upstairs was unbearable if not impossible.

When I was really young, we had hardwood floors in the living room. On the hottest nights, the entire family would camp out downstairs. From the screen door, we lined up like train cars across the living room floor. The person with the most seniority was closest to the door, and youngest played caboose. I remember sleeping directly on the hard wood, and the initial feeling of the cool wood on my cheek and legs, which quickly turned hot and dampy.

In those days people thought nothing of leaving doors unlocked at night.

There were weird little markings on frame of our screen door. Dog scratchings. Initials carved with pocketknives ::Brother-Not-So-Bright tried denying it. Goof::. A flour dough handprint.

It's been 18 years since my mom sold our childhood home. I'm glad she sold it when she did. In fact, considering the swift decline of the neighborhood not long after that picture was taken, she probably waited too long.

Still, the final move was a difficult thing for me. Obviously I mourned the loss of the only home I knew for the first 22 years of my life. But how does one know to say goodbye to the little things, like the smell of old screen, or golden glittery address numbers or the dangling shadow of a maple tree branch? Things that can be so easily overlooked or taken for granted or forgotten.

Or not.


Comments: Post a Comment