Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Second House: Sioux Falls 1962

The first house I knew--and the house I think of when I think of Sioux Falls--was a one story, corner lot home in the Hilltop neighborhood. It was white with black trim and had a big weeping willow tree. There were many other homes just like it and also open fields (probably just empty lots) full of dandelions where we--my brothers and sister, neighborhood kids--would run and play and catch bees (scary business as a kid, catching bees). It was a nice place. Then--for reasons I know not--we moved to a different house.
The second house was older and in an older neighborhood (whose name I also know not). It was a two story, stucco, odd house. It had a basement that was somewhat finished and we used it as a family room, but also in the basement was an unfinished segment which had a wooden door and on the door someone (the previous owners?) had drawn a skull and cross bones and--I think--the word DANGER. I was four, not quite five, and it always scared me. It was kind of a cool, fun scared, but also a deep down eerie scared. Maybe that's why I never quite warmed to the second house. Also maybe because it was kind of dreary looking, with its pitched roof and mustard-brown-yellow stucco exterior. I don't know. Maybe also because we didn't live in it all that long--again, I think--before we moved off to Vancouver, Washington . . . also it's where I started school--kindergarten--and I hated school and the teacher.
But we did have some fun there. I recall, our bedroom was upstairs and had a screenless window and we put on a few plays up there for other neighborhood kids, performing in front of the window while they sat in the lawn down below and watched. In one play, I was the Jolly Green Giant. We also had some nature areas where we goofed around, catching insects. One older kid told us that dragonflies could spit in your eye and make you go blind--I believed that for a long time (until Tennessee) and was very afraid of dragonflies. The same kid, once, when I'd caught a bumble bee in a small jar and was ready to flip it over and had my hand under it, stepped on the jar so that I could not remove my hand . . . I don't remember his name or what he even looked like, but if I saw him maybe I'd punch him to this day. And there was a our next door neighbor, some high-strung little girl who would come over and play and when we played out front with the sprinkler--one of those round ones with a whirring blade--she stuck her toe in it and got a big gash and went home crying. She did this not once, but at least twice (maybe three times). She was funny.
(I remember, in the second house, I had a plastic chicken for a toy--one you could take into the bath with you. I had a stuffed seal that was old and one day I saw it outside in a box of things to be thrown away. I remember being in the basement room at that house and Mother asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I answered: "A frog.")
We were all funny. A family of seven. Five kids, four boys and one girl, who were free to roam, summers spent mainly outdoors with no household chores, just a mild set of rules and regulations and supervision--you rarely see that nowadays; too many parental fears. So, the second house was okay, really. Maybe I never got the chance to appreciate it or maybe I just missed the first house. I do know that when we did go back to Sioux Falls to visit--which was rare, maybe only two or three return visits in my lifetime--we went back to the Hilltop neighborhood, to the first house and the people we knew there. 
I don't recall ever seeing the second house again.

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