The childhood story I have to tell I can only do in bits and pieces. In metaphors and memories. I want to tell it all but can’t seem to get myself to do it. At least all at once.
When I was growing up, I thought having carpet meant you were rich. I would go to people’s houses and marvel at how lush they were. I remember visiting my friend Shawna’s house for the first time and her Mother came to the door in see-through plastic Candies with a wood heel, a light blue silk robe, lipstick and hair curled. I walked into their home with wall-to-wall thick, light blue carpet and thought I had died and gone to heaven.
We lived in a cabin on a mountain that was never meant for year-round living. We had no heat, just a wood burning stove. Each year, we got a cord of wood and we would haul it down the big hill we walked down to our house from the parking lot. The hill to our house had a path with 100 stairs but often those stairs would disappear in the winter, in the mud. I got to know how to walk in the dark, feel my way.
We had an outdoor shower only and no washer, no dryer. The outdoor shower in the morning was less than luxurious. You would run out naked, turn the water on and run back inside and watch the water until you could see steam. That meant it was hot. Then run back out into it. Many winters, the shower would have banana slugs creeping their way across the slats which you would jump over not to squish. A really bad day was stepping on a slug. This meant you had to get a razor blade and scrape off the banana slug stickiness which is extremely adhesive.
Not having laundry meant going to the laundromat. It meant hauling our laundry up the hill to the parking lot and driving it down the mountain. I grew up ashamed of this. Only poor people went to the laundromat. My Mom and I, during the winter, would sit in our car with the heat blasting and chew gum. Neither of us wanted to go home to a freezing house and cook.
When I tell people I grew up on a mountain, I realize it sounds cool. People love the idea of rustic, outdoorsy. Getting “back to nature”. But for me, that was a way of life. I grew up in one of the most beautiful places in the country!!! I never take for granted the beauty and abundance of my surroundings. But, I couldn’t wait to get out. I couldn’t wait to have carpet.