The old girl isn’t the same anymore. She looks smaller somehow. They gave her a coat of dismal green paint after the fire, and now she looks like any ordinary old house, with her former pristine glory but a memory. They say the fire started in the attic, which makes me sadder than ever, because that was my home for five years.
Across the Bay from San Francisco, many of the lovely old Victorian homes in Alameda were built by the sea captains of the 19th century. Built by my great-grandfather in the latter part of the 19th century, our house has been turned into apartments now. My mother and I lived in the attic apartment during the final two years of the War, and it is where Dr. Advice and I began our married life.
My Great Aunt Helen inherited the house in due course and lived on the ground floor, turning the second floor into two apartments. My cousin lived in one and my high school English teacher in the other. We lived up another flight in the attic apartment.
Our three small rooms had many irritating but unique qualities including a kitchen with a downhill slanting floor where our first Thanksgiving guests were treated to the sight of the turkey which flew out of the oven and found its way into the living room. Another weakness came on laundry days. Down three flights of stairs in the basement an old fashioned metal washboard did the job nicely after a bit of elbow grease.
I commandeered the garret under the eaves with its one hanging light bulb as my studio, and it was where I painted my first commission portrait while in high school. My payment was a small glass bell. Even though it’s a nice bell, I’m glad the price went up through the years; I can only use so many bells. I’m afraid it wasn’t a very good portrait, but painting away in this dim confined space I felt like a real “starving” artist.
Driving by the old place occasionally, I wonder who owns it now, and what other people have roamed through it in the past 65 years. Do they wonder about us? How I would love to buy it and restore it to what it once was. I’d level off the kitchen floor in the attic and put a washing machine in the basement, but the first thing I would do is get rid of that hideous green paint!
“Mrs. Lauderback” sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen