While we’re on the subject of the Detroit area, I was messing around in Google Maps today, and found my old house in Ypsilanti, I think.
The house is the building towards the middle of the lot, away from the driveway. It was an A-frame with a large wing off to the side. I don’t think the outbuildings were there then. But I remember the creek, and the huge yard that Mom hated mowing so she just cut a few walkways in it, and the Lutzes, whose dogs did not care for my singing, whose fields those are off to the right. On the other side of those fields is the school where I went to third grade.
Funny that I could find it so easily, with nothing but a street name and town name, and thirty-one-year-old memories.
The house had been built by the couple my family bought it from, and had two secret rooms in the finished basement. On the wall of the laundry room was a gun rack which was a door to a secret sauna. Then, the far wall of the sauna slid back to reveal a small unfinished basement room.
There was an open stairwell from the living room down into the basement, and directly over that was a spiral staircase to a loft in the A-frame. The spiral staircase didn’t have any railing. I don’t think the previous owners had kids. They also didn’t know much about installing sliding glass doors, and Mom said she used to have nightmares that someone was trying to break into the house, and when she tried to close and lock the doors they just came out of their tracks.
I remember a big yellow flowering forsythia bush outside the sliding glass door of my bedroom, which had red carpet. And I remember a whole jumble of other things: gerbils, Brownie troop meetings, getting my cat Buffy so angry that he’d actually chase me into the bathroom, where I had to stay hidden until he'd forget and wander off, poor baby. I remember watching the Ernie Kovacs show with my parents – remember the monkeys, playing that song? I remember we used to get field mice in the kitchen. They'd flee my mom, and Buffy, and take refuge under the avocado-green refrigerator.
We were living there that winter day I dawdled and missed the bus, and Mom got mad and made me walk to school across the fields, not realizing how bitterly cold it was till the neighbors brought me home, and how terrible she felt. And we were there that time she had a panic attack in the middle of the night and we had to go to the emergency room.
There was the store we used to go to, Saturday mornings – the Big Ten? where my parents would buy a box of Turtles and get me a Baby Ruth. There were freezing cold days, and the creek iced over in winter, and piled so high with snow you could hardly see where it was. And in summer there was playing among the pine trees, and running around the crazy walkways in the tall grass that Mom had cut before giving up in disgust. (It was a two-acre lot. A rotary push mower? What was she thinking??)
And there was the occasional trip into Detroit. How many elementary school kids’ parents take them to see Wagner? I remember Lohengrin, and also concerts: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and a pretty soprano in the front row of the chorus with blond braids looped across the top of her head, smiling at me; Pavarotti, back before he lost all that weight, when he was really big.
It’s funny how, just looking at that aerial, the memories are so vivid I can feel them.
Especially if it turns out that isn't actually my house.