15 Comments

SHE’S LOOKING A BIT DISHEVELED


Mrs. LauderbackThe 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

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15 comments on “SHE’S LOOKING A BIT DISHEVELED

  1. A home protects us from the elements and shares intimately in our joys and sorrows so that it appears to acquire a personality of its own. This must be especially so when it has been part of a family for so long. As it changes to meet the needs of succeeding generations our emotions are close to a sense of bereavement beyond nostalgia. You capture that feeling so well. The sculpture epitomises it.

    I expect you learned quickly that you have to kill a turkey before cooking it. You were very young, after all.

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  2. What a beautifully descriptive tour and history of a home that sheltered so many. And isn’t it true that the quirkiest places are the ones we remember best, if not always the most fondly? I remember my first basement apartment in Kansas City, where I had no stove but learned to do rather well with an electric kettle and an electric skillet. Does anyone even use an electic skillet now? I should have had a slow cooker, but I’m not sure they’d been invented yet.

    The best ever was my place at Favrot Hall, in the Texas Medical Center. The apartment was tiny, several floors up, but had a view that couldn’t be beat — straight into Michael DeBakey’s scrub room.

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    • Each time we remodeled a house through the years I had an electric skillet at my disposal. The greatest piece of equipment next to the microwave. (not quite). I’s buy another if I could find one in a thrift store.

      What would we have to remember about a house that was perfect since nothing ever is. I gave a cookbook to a new granddaughter-in-law, and found that she had no stove either.

      I’d love to know what went on in DeBakey’s scrub room!

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  3. Based on a small tidbit within this post–that of the turkey flying out of the oven and into the family room, I’ve discerned that you may be helpful as our turkey season on the Rancho approaches. Do you have any thoughts about wild turkeys in high numbers setting up shop on our lawn? Do you have the secret?

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  4. Upon checking my cookbook, I find that strangling is the best method, before removing feathers. At this time soak them liberally with meat softener, stuff with a couple of coots and a brick. Roast for several hours at 450 throw them away and eat the brick.

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  5. I have visions of the hot roasted turkey trundling along the floor, startled guests leaping out of the way. I buy my bits of turkey, frozen, from the supermarket. 🙂

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    • Dr. Advice is a turkey junkie and would like me to roast one every week. I am OK with it the first time around, but I don’t like the leftovers. In the case of the first one, a great-auntie from Canada grabbed a towel picked it up and called out that dinner was ready, while I stood around with a red face. Grace under pressure.

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  6. ChristineR,
    Feel free to come up to the Rancho with your 30-30 and pop off a few of our destructive flock. We’d be most grateful.

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  7. Yes, it’s funny how the discomforts we endured in our youth are a source of nostalgia now. How very funny about the turkey.

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  8. They say hindsight is better than foresight!
    My new oven is much bigger and lower than the old one, and I wondered if it might slide out of this one, although this floor is level.

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