Safe As Houses


When I was eleven, we moved to a new house. None of us kids wanted to move, because moving meant a whole new school, and we loved our old school. We also loved our old neighbourhood, which was comprised mainly of Catholic families, and thus jam-packed with kids. There were enough kids in just four families (ours, with a mere four children, was considered humiliatingly meagre -- made worse by the fact that we were all girls) for teams to play just about everything -- huge ball games on summer evenings, Capture the Flag (which took hours, sometimes days), and Red Rover Red Rover, a semi-violent game if played properly, which frequently led to injuries that nowadays would require stitches and accident reports. In those days, you just got shouted at for getting blood on your clothes.

The new neighbourhood had no such camaraderie. It was slightly more genteel, and no longer on a dead end road, and if there were any kids around, they didn't gather on summer evenings to play kickball.

We never really learned to love the new house like the old house. There was no flowering crab apple on the front lawn. We weren't as happy as a family. The school wasn't as good. We were all getting older, and didn't play together much anymore.

But I'll never forget the utter joy of going around the new house for the first time, and discovering that it had a laundry chute -- a laundry chute with a trap door that went from the bedrooms straight down to the basement. Spy stuff.  Magic.


And that's not all. There was a garage door that operated by pushing a button.  And a secret door hidden at the back of the closet in my bedroom that led to a storage room under the garage roof. If the Nazis ever came to Boston, that's where I was going to hide.

There was also a stuffy attic where I once found my mother's diary from 1956 with a big question mark on October the 9th. It must have been my due date; I was born a week late.

And a beautiful magnolia tree outside my bedroom window.

It wasn't the happiest of houses. But it was good in parts.