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May 1, 2018 / sharoncopy

5732 North 4th Street

I am sitting on the front steps at 5732 N. 4th St in Philadelphia PA, 19120.  In front of me I see a twin home and some trees, neighbors’ homes further down the street, and above all the full moon in the eastern sky. There’s a streetlight in front of our home which makes our hunter green 12-passenger van (license plate: EXTRA RM) look kind of navy blue at night. Behind me the white door is open to the enclosed porch. There’s a low brown shelf filled with shoes and skates, a tall blue shelf with various items on it, 6 bikes and a purple scooter. A few toys are littered about with a small stray sock or two, a couple of hoodies here and there. On the front of the porch there are 6 large windows, and on the sides are two large windows, each, which I have covered with a white sheet to be a privacy curtain from Stan on one side, Elmira on the other.

A french door with many little windows is closed, but leads to the living room. A sea of blue and white pleases – the free blue carpet that was once in Dr. Cornelius Van Til’s bedroom (raisin and cough syrup stains included in one small area) – “Dr. Van Til slept here.” There are blue cafe curtains and valances adorning the 2 windows between the living room and porch, with a beige-y sort of sofa bed below them with a sort of stripes of dark red, gray, and the tiniest bit of blue. On another wall stands a spinet piano with two nature paintings above. A third wall holds an entertainment center with a small television and VCR, books, etc.

The next room is the Study, with both sides lined with 72″ tall walnut-colored bookshelves, and in one corner, my desk, with a funny clothesline over it holding pictures and papers. In the corner there’s a small coat closet. In another corner there’s a window with a steep stairwell beneath it. There are toys and books and red and white cardboard bricks and lidded boxes marked with a picture of their contents. In the center there’s a sturdy pine table with a few chairs around it.

The next room is the dining room. There’s a white hutch that was probably original with the house in the 20’s if the layers and layers of paint and non-closing doors have anything to say about it. There’s a hutch that my dad built for us when we first moved to PA. There’s a 72″ long pine table from IKEA, surrounded by a variety of chairs – some with padded seats and navy/floral patterns that I recovered. The wainscoting is painted burgundy with a burgundy/pink/blue/green floral pattern stenciled just above it on the cream-colored ledge. There’s a refrigerator too. There’s a window ledge and window into the kitchen area, usually covered with stuff or else used to help get the dishes put away or served.

The last room in the straight-through is the little kitchen, light green-tiled because it came that way, painted white above, with little floral valances above. There’s an original sink with all white metal cupboards around and below it that creak when they are opened. There’s a small counter on each side of the sink, and an old gas stove. Above the stove is a pretty design I stenciled over white paint after I accidentally melted several of the light green tiles there. There’s a rolling cart and built in cupboards with a green/white counter above them, and a step stool in the corner. There’s a back door with a window with a curtain on it.

Out the back door are the steps that my brother built. They lead down into a small yard bordered by 5′ tall hedges; Stan the neighbor keeps the left one trimmed so it looks good in his yard. He ties a clothesline across it so that it will come out evenly. There’s a back fence and gate to a small alley that leads to the driveway which makes up one side of the “little block” the kids are allowed to ride around. Underneath the kitchen is a small Alice in Wonderland room that is not used for much, but we were once crazy enough to crawl in there and tack insulation above our faces in an effort to warm up the kitchen. I get claustrophobic just thinking about that day. There’s a sidewalk that goes along the right side of the house (from the door’s vantage point) and about 5-6 steps down to the laundry room/half bathroom.

As I sit on the steps, I ponder and pray. In the basement, Dennis is reading in the small office that my dad and brother built for him, or else he’s upstairs asleep. David is asleep or reading in the small bedroom that was built for him in the basement. When one goes from the dining room to the rather primitive-looking basement, one passes a mural I painted by tracing around each of our six kids – “Cookie Time!” Straight ahead would be David’s room, to the left the tool area and come around to go to the laundry room/half bath or outside to the yard. Opposite – under the front porch – is the “sand room”, so named because it was difficult to get all of the sand off of the floor, but at one time it was a favorite play place for Julie, Brian, Tim, and Kevin. And David’s room was a green-carpeted playroom with Dennis’s old cement block and board shelves for the toys, big plastic kitchen thing-ies, marked boxes, always, and a mattress to jump on. In the large laundry/half bath, there’s a clothespin by the dark gray door that one pulls on to turn on the light. The pin is attached to a long string that goes to the overhead bare bulb near the washer/dryer and toilet/utility sink  – allowing whoever enters to have light immediately. On the wall next to the toilet in the corner is a thick red plaid bedspread covering the wall to bring a bit of warmth to the freezing cold room. There’s also a small space heater for long stays.
There’s an old metal coat rack where I hang clothes on hangers to dry after about 10 minutes in the dryer, a shelf with our old record player (the radio still works), and another shelf or two for the boxes: one per person – laundry gets sorted into them and then each child is to retrieve the box and put his/her own laundry away. Above the washer is a large inspirational (yes, it was!) sign I made that reads, “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” Prov. 31:27

As I sit on the steps I think about Brian, Tim, and Kevin in bed in the turquoise room up above the living room. It used to house all four boys in bunkbeds. Then Kevin moved into the hall closet for 6 months, desirous to have his own room – we did it on New Year’s Eve – why not? Sofa cushions made for a bed, shelves held his clothes, a sheet tacked up gave him privacy and I even hung his name plaque in there. But when my dad and brother build the room for David (1996), Kevin was moved back in to share with Brian and Tim.
The boys have navy blue  and white sleeping bags.

The bathroom is painted mauve – which looks tan to Dennis. It has an old footed tub, a toilet, mirror, and sink. There are 8 hooks with personalized mugs of mauve, blue, and white hanging from them. Just like the basement bathroom and the bedrooms, the only locks are hook-and-eye.

Julie and Amy will be asleep in their bunk beds in the next bedroom where Amy told people “I just love my lavender walls.” Julie chose the colors. I built a triangular shelf in a corner, up high above her horse-covered desk, for her American Girl doll bed, as there was no place else for it. The closet is tiny and odd-shaped. There’s a big dresser and a small dresser, and every inch under the bed is in use. The girls have matching lilac comforters.

Last of all is our bedroom, with the same gold/brown carpet that we bought in MI and brought to all of our homes. At Jenkintown Road it was in the living room. At Lynwood Ave it was in our living room. At Boyer Street it was in the middle bedroom. And now it is in our back bedroom. We have a king sized bed, a small closet, a dresser, various shelves and pictures, including a tiger on the wall above our bed. I have stenciled yellow roses with green leaves around the top of the room. At one point in time we had our small television upstairs and many of us laid on the bed to watch “Garfield” and “Gummy Bears” on Saturday mornings.

With my eyes closed, or looking at the moon, I can imagine sitting on those front steps late at night. It is oh, so real that I could practically turn around and see it all, or hear someone calling, “Mommy?”



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