Miller Avenue

26 Jul

It isn’t there anymore.  It used to be.  I know.  I became a person there.

And even though the red plank front porch and the pink bathroom with a claw foot tub and my tree house overlooking the garden and the old one-car garage that leaned slightly to the east…even though they were swept from the earth, banished in order to “upgrade” the neighborhood, the white frame house and everything about it is still an anchor in my life.

Every child should grow up in a small white house on Miller Avenue and listen to Spike Jones on a crank handle Victrola.  The rooms were small, especially the kitchen with green linoleum that buckled near the screened back door.  Perhaps like other homes, the dining room was a crossroads for anyone moving from one room to another.  A large black, lacquered dining table claimed the center of the room and, over time, became the social center for family gatherings.  Children got a fold up card table for Sunday meals.
Not bad for us.  We could avoid the boring adult conversations about the best place to buy 20 cent gasoline, the punctuality of the milk man in his horse drawn milk wagon, and the latest rumors about Jimmy the butcher.  Not a gang lord, Jimmy really was a butcher.  He had a big square chopping table.  And a huge cleaver.  And a used-to-be white apron that was the clincher.  He was a butcher.

I think it was a local law that only fried chicken, potato salad, green beans and jello were allowed in decent homes on the first day of the week.  We must have qualified.  Sundays were very predictable.  Church in the morning, chicken at noon, naps when the last drumstick was cleaned.  Everybody napped.  It was a kind of “loosen your belt” time for kids, aunts and uncles, anyone who could find space on a bed or couch.  I think potato salad must do that.  By 4 o’clock most of the potato salad induced grogginess had worn off and we could circle the dining room table for slices of dark chocolate pie topped with spiky meringue.  The chocolate pie ritual was second only to the fried chicken ritual.

My bedroom was added on the back of the house.  Small but adequate.  Two windows looked out to a tall china berry tree that shaded the faux water well my grandfather built.  We didn’t have a well but you might think we did when you saw the facsimile.  It even had a rope, pulley and a bucket that went nowhere.  In time it quit fooling people, so we stopped being proud of it.

I had a duck and a dog.  The dog bit me in the back and the duck chased me around the backyard.  They were replaced by a series of cats who were quite content to ignore me.  A specific childhood memory returns:  china berries, the little yellow berries that fall from the tree of the same name, berries about the size of a blueberry…china berries really stink when mashed on your cousin’s back.

The roots run deep.  They do.  The memories are more than events reassembled in my mind.  They anchor me to life.

I became a person on Miller Avenue.


2 Responses to “Miller Avenue”

  1. Michael Burt July 26, 2018 at 11:35 am #

    It was “Elmhurst” for me; 320 if I remember correctly: and it’s gone as well. A church stands there now, so it is still “sacred ground” for me. It’s where I grew up…

    • rpiercetuc July 26, 2018 at 11:38 am #

      5322 Miller Ave. Special places, aren’t they. Blessings to you

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