It was the house where my parents fought. I was crouched under the square white table with the brown chairs, watching my mother run as my father chased her with a knife. Her red, black and gray patterned skirt swished as she ran, the Spanish dancing ladies printed around the bottom seeming to run with her. I was two and half years old.
I don’t remember how many houses we lived in before this one, but I remember this one well. It was a wooden shack on a farmer’s property. My father would work on the farm long enough to get drinking money, get into a fight, and get thrown in jail. There was no back door so my mother hung a blanket to help shield us against the winter wind. There was no paint on the outside and there were spaces between the boards. The floor was wood plank and I could see the dirt under the house through them.
My solace was Great Grandma’s house. I’d spend weekends there when I got to be around five or six. There was a small cedar box filled with family pictures, pictures of people I didn’t know. Every weekend Grandma would take them down and patiently tell me again who each person was. I have some of those pictures now.
There were Bible coloring books that had the story that went with the pictures printed at the bottom of the page. And there was the pantry. Mom always told her not to fill me with junk food but the minute Grandma was sure Mom was gone we went straight to the pantry. There were lumps of brown sugar, butter cookies shaped like flowers with holes in the middle, snow ball cakes, and those cookies that were soft cookie on the bottom and topped with pink or white marshmallow and coconut. Those used to be my favorite. There were Fizzies too. They were like Kool-Aid tablets only they made the water fizz when you dropped them in.
Grandma would watch Howdy Dudy with me and Mickey Mouse Club.
There were peach and apricot trees on her property and she had a cellar where she did her canning. She would take me down with her and let me think I was helping her with the canning. I can still smell those fresh ripe peaches as she peeled them. And the apricots were so sweet. Every time I eat one I’m back at her house. It was a refuge from the Old Dumpy House.