Day Eleven-When I was 12…

home was a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in the San Fernando Valley. Reseda, California, to be exact. I lived there with my parents and little sister Dawn, who was between 7 and 8 at the time. It was a step up from our last place where my parents slept in the living room so we could have the bedroom, though I suppose I could say it was a step to the side. We had moved there from the building next door.
Instead of facing the hellish West, our main windows in the new place looked to the North and kept it cooler during the oven-like summers. The pool was our garden. Sometimes pretty flowers grew there, but more often it was cigarette butts that sprouted. Despite the smoke, the pool is what I miss most about that place. Astrologically and quasi-literally, once a Fish, always a Fish.
We had a patio, but didn’t use it much. Our neighbors tended to be on the loud side, and didn’t understand that not only were the walls thin, but open windows let everyone into your business. We had no desire to know what their business was, especially in the wee hours so we would sometimes yell out the window for them to be quiet.
I was in junior high school, and had just discovered New Kids on The Block. You can only imagine what my “wallpaper” was. I say “my,” but in reality it was “ours” given I shared the room with my sister. She had the same love for them as I did though, and my decorating desires were shared by her — or at the least, she wanted to please her older sister and didn’t say no. We had bunk beds at one point, but here the beds were separated and we slept side-by-side. Chotchke-filled shadow boxes hung on the walls, seemingly innocuous. Only during the Northridge quake 6 years later, would my sister find out how they could be used as tools of torture. Picture it, miniatures splayed across a carpeted, violently gyrating floor like spikes in the grass. Her hands and knees were not fans.
I had more reasons than the usual to be a broody teenage girl — my parents didn’t get along and hadn’t been copacetic for a while. My mother passive, my father aggressive. My sister and I, in between. It’s no surprise then, when I say I spent a lot of time in that room, listening to music on my boombox, writing down song lyrics from memory in a little notebook I kept by my bed, waiting for one of the Knight brothers to rescue me. Unfortunately, that never happened…

7 comments

  1. There are so many thoughts that went through my head reading this post. I actually shed some tears. See, I am not sure I ever really shared what your two-room apartment meant to me. Though I don’t think I was invited in as early as when we were 12, I would bet I may have seen it by the time we were 14. I don’t remember being a good communicator about my own private home life during that age, but suffice it to say, it was not typical. I really think my mom’s generation didn’t understand that the word parent is also a verb. I didn’t have home cooked meals or a mom who asked how my day went or asked how school was going other than to check that I was getting As. She was a worrier, she had some tough years, she carried guilt, and she did what she thought was her best. But I remember that your mom had chips and salsa in the house (remember when that’s all we ate when preparing for Dr. Shaffer’s decade reports), and she was the first person ever to make me a homemade hamburger (I never told you that). I remembered how she let you girls put posters on the walls (I wasn’t allowed). I remembered how you had an actual closet with clothes you would share (remember when I went to that party wearing Dawn’s clothes and shoes). I don’t ever remember your dad, but that wasn’t different to me because I never knew mine. I just remembered that I was at your house or at Lori’s house or at Kim’s house every weekend, it seemed. I was such a lost and lonely soul, and I was happiest with my friends. I know you didn’t have a Courier & Ives life, but in some ways, the only things I knew about “normal” interaction between family members were what I learned from watching my friends. And even now, as I hope to start my own family and dream of dinners together at a dining room table, or letting them express their creativity by decorating their own rooms, or taking them to museums or the zoo, I’m still learning by watching you. I am still so happy to call you my friend. Thank you and your sister and your mom for sharing your two-bedroom home with me. I will never forget how gracious and generous you were and still are to me. Hugs!

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    • Wow. Just goes to show you that when they say people won’t remember what you do or say to them, but they will remember how they made you feel, it’s true! Now I’m the one crying. Glad we could provide that for you…I’m very grateful for you! Love you and miss you friend xxoo

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  2. Joy, you took the words right out of my mouth – Maya Angelou was right. Dawn, we never really know the impact that people have in our lives – I am very glad to have given you a piece of “normalcy” in your hectic teenage life.

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  3. I’m crying! I loved when you’d come over, Dawn. I remember many days sitting at the table with chips, salsa and koolaid 🙂

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