This Old House

My parents, back in California, have sold the house I grew up in and are moving to one whose walls I have not marked with crayon (yet).

I can understand why they’re doing it. When you get older and the kids have moved out, it makes sense to get a smaller, more manageable house. Except the one they’ve bought is actually bigger, and half the kids still live at home. So I guess I don’t understand it after all. This is just another house for my mom’s idiot chihuahuas to urinate all over.

I do take some solace in knowing that, while they’re moving, I’m safely in Utah, where I can’t be asked to help. I’ve hated helping people move ever since I served an LDS mission in the United States, where church members move a lot, and where they think missionaries are all named Elder Piano-Lifter. If I had a little joy for every soul that went unsaved because I had to waste an afternoon loading boxes onto a pickup truck, how great would be my joy.

My dad’s attitude toward moving is to save on U-Haul rentals by throwing everything in the trash now. My mom has to rush to get her errands done during the day, for fear that by the time she gets home, my dad will have put an entire room, walls and all, into a Dumpster. You’d think my dad was from the Old Country, where they were forced from their homes with nothing but the shirts on their backs. But he’s from Los Angeles, and he was never forced out of anywhere, except maybe a few nice restaurants.

It’s unsettling, though, because we moved to the current house when I was 2. It’s the only house I remember. (Well, the only house I remember living in. I do remember other houses. There’s one next door to me now, for example.) This was my boyhood home. Every memory of my family up until I left for college centers around this house.

Like when my three brothers and I shared two sets of bunk beds in the master bedroom (my parents were relegated to a lesser bedroom), and my brother Jeff came running home one night, leapt onto the first top bunk, bounced over to the second top bunk, then bounced right into the window, which he shattered.

Or when I got on the roof and ripped off one of the shingles, which resulted in my dad angrily asking the very stupid question, “Do you think that makes the house look better?”

Or when my brother Chris, for reasons I have yet to ascertain, did a nose-dive onto the floor from atop the bathroom sink.

Or when I had a bad dream about a spider, so I climbed into bed with my parents, and my dad reached over to feel which kid I was, and his hand moving on the blanket felt like a spider crawling across me, and I freaked right the hell out.

Or when my brother Lane used a hammer to smash up an outside wall of the house because he was trying to sneak up on my sister Laura, who was playing in the bedroom on the other side of said wall.

Or when I was playing with my cousin Stephen (who lived nearby), and we got in trouble for something, and my dad sent us to my room to await sentencing, and we ingeniously thought to disguise ourselves in old clothes being stored in the closet, figuring that when my dad came in, he wouldn’t recognize us, and we could tell him Eric and Stephen had escaped through the window.

Or when we thought my sister Joy was lost and we looked everywhere for her and pretty much decided she was gone forever, and then finally found her curled up asleep under some blankets in the closet.

Or when my sister Laura, as a toddler, would toddle out into the front yard and eat snails.

Or when Stephen and I wanted to walk to Circle K to get candy by ourselves, but my brother Chris wanted to tag along, and my mom said we could go without him if we waited until he took his nap, so we used crayons to draw stars and moons on his bedroom walls, hoping to fool him into thinking it was nighttime.

I’ll miss that house. The new one was just built, so it doesn’t have any memories in it yet. And I don’t think we can take the old ones with us. At least, not if my dad has anything to say about it.

I enjoyed writing this column. I didn't realize how much amusing lore we had in my family until I actually tried to write about it. My Fat Brother Jeff and my mom had to remind me who the main characters were in a few items, but I certainly remembered everything once they told me.

All of the incidents are true and occurred the way I present them here, at least to the best of my recollection. (It's possible Laura was crawling, not toddling, when she ate the snails, for example, but the basic story is true. I guess it's possible she STILL eats snails, though I kind of doubt it.)

All of my siblings are mentioned here, by the way. Jeff and my Fat Brother Jeff are the same person; I didn't use his nickname in the column because none of the others got nicknames.

The "how great would be my joy" line is a cross between the old "If I had a nickel for every time..." figure of speech, and an LDS scripture often quoted in relation to missionary work: "And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy.... And now, if your joy will be great with one soul ... how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me." (Doctrine and Covenants 18:15-16)