Sign Of Hospitality

I was born on a Friday morning, and I recently returned to the house where I was born on a Friday, almost 30 years later, a typical Friday’s child. The house was a moment froze in time, as if nothing had changed since I walked out the front door at the tender age of 8. I still remember the dimly lit hallway leading upstairs, the flocked red wallpaper, and the salt and pepper carpeting. Nothing had changed in all these years I spent away, stepping out the front door at age 8 as a small child, raised on promises. I made my way through life, living, growing, and thriving, only to return as a successful adult, the only thing that had changed was me.

I made my way upstairs, feeling the stairway had become more narrow than I had remembered it to be, realizing that I had grown and wasn’t a child anymore. The people who used to live upstairs had moved out years ago, and the apartments were now occupied by people my own age. Though the faces and the names had changed, the layout, vibe, and flow of the house had remained the same.

It was the little details which I gravitated towards, relying on my memories of childhood and adolescence in search of nostalgia, now my only connection to the past as my father had passed away far too soon, and never had the chance to make that final last trip with me back home. It was here where my childhood memories were made. Here where I learned to walk, to read, and then write. And here where I took my first photographic pictures.

My childhood bedroom still had the same red paint on the sliding closet doors. The sliding doors and the shutters above were still fitted with the 1970’s style pull tabs, small and round like a tear, and made of brass. Their age had started to show in the decades of oxidation, and we’re no longer the shiny metallic I remembered.

I still remember climbing out of my crib when I was just turning two years old, then the excitement I felt a few years later when my father set up the Texas Instruments T99/4A computer in my bedroom, connected to an old television set. Later the computer would be replaced with a sheet of plywood placed on top of the computer desk, and my father and I would run electric trains. Life was simpler back then, and much easier when I was young.

I had a collection of light up novelty lamps which I stored in a cabinet between the two floor-to-ceiling windows. One was a light-up globe, which my parents threw away when the tiny night light bulb inside of it finally burned out and my father destroyed the globe trying to fix it. The other was a full-scale duck lamp which was constructed of cheap plastic and had fake grass painted on the side of the base. When I was a child, I was fascinated with novelty lamps, Legos, and a set of large scale inflatable dinosaurs which towered over my eight year old self.

The marks on the outside of my bedroom door frame were still present from the time when I locked my bedroom door by accident and my father was forced to open the door by sliding a butter knife between the doorknob and the frame. It happened during a weekend football game and the television set happened to be in my room at the time, and my dad was in a bit of a hurry to watch it, so he wasn’t exactly careful when he shimmed the door open.

My parents bedroom was still painted with the same shade of baby blue for the paneling, white for everything else. The cabinets were still the same, and I found it hard to believe that at one time I was actually able to climb to the top shelf near the high ceiling and lay flat upon the shelf. I was fearless and adventures back then, and liked to climb everything. A few years later, my father came home with an IBM PC Jr., complete with a cutting edge 16-color monitor, only this time it was set up in my parents bedroom because my father wanted to use it for his work. I would wait patiently all afternoon just to play my favorite game of Snipes.

The kitchen floor tile still had a small chip in it when I decided to play with my father’s tools, after becoming disenchanted with my toy trucks. I was able to locate the small chip immediately, though small and barely visible, I knew exactly where it was, though the floor had become much more shiny since my childhood as years of cleaning and polishing had helped to hide this accidental imperfection.

Thomas Slatin & Anne Slatin

The basement still had boxes of my father’s possessions, consisting of all kinds of scientific documents which I still do not understand, and some vintage science equipment. My name was still written on the wall in marker, along with some random doodles and scribbles on a metal cupboard, along with a handwritten sign, declaring one of the larger rooms of the basement was my hide out.

My name is written on an interior wall of every house I have ever lived in, along with the year I first lived there. As an adult I have often wondered how my childhood affected the course of my life, and seeing the spot where I wrote my name on the basement wall of the house I was born into resulted in more unanswered questions than answers.

Life goes by so fast, and as much as I try to hold onto the memories, it seems that the older I get, the more the memories fade. For the first time in my life, I realize that nothing stays the same. Time carries on. People live and grow. Everything changes day to day despite any of our futile attempts to make sure that things stay the same.

I walked out the front door, I could almost hear my father whispering something in my ear, though it seemed so inaudible and distant, coming from across the miles, our lives so intertwined during my youth. I just wish that he had more time, just so he could have been there with me when I finally found my way home.

Harvey Slatin and Thomas Slatin

This piece was inspired by a recent trip to New York City, to visit the house where I grew up in the 1980’s. The header image came from the post A Sign Of Hospitality.

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