When I walked out of the front door of that large stone building, I turned left.
I didn’t have to take many steps before I turned right, went down the driveway and had to wait to cross the street. Sister Anne had a crossing signal put in at some point. The whole school laughed when we had an assembly and a police officer there for some kind of presentation informed us all it was against the law for her to have done that. The light was never taken out so Sr. Anne must have known what she was doing.
I never crossed without the light saying so. I was too afraid a teacher would be watching and I would get in trouble. I would cross the street, always staring at the house right across the street. The Farrell’s lived there. It was a big white house, and they had kids in our school. Todd was in my class.
I turned left once I crossed the street. And walked along the sidewalk. Often times alone. Often times with a sibling, or Patrick, the neighbor who lived across the street from us. When you walk that walk thousands of times, you can can have thousands of solitary walks, and thousands of accompanied walks.
Some days the walk seemed to take forever.
Some days the walk didn’t last long enough.
That probably depended on what I had to do when I got home.
Back on the other side of the street was the massive church that was ‘our’ church. We went there for mass during school, and on weekends. Our classes sang there for funerals.
On the right I passed the houses that sat back, grandly, from the street. Until I passed Fannie’s house. We learned early that we better not cut through Fannie’s front yard. That was frowned upon, and Fannie didn’t hesitate to yell out her front door at us.
Fannie’s driveway and my grandparents driveway were side by side. Separated only by a slightly raised divider right up the middle of that double wide driveway. My grandparents and Fannie must have had some kind of mutual understanding about blacktopping it. Because it was always blacktopped. And generally we walked on the raised divider or on our grandparents side.
As I walked up the driveway the front yard sloped up and my grandparent’s house sat grandly atop a rise. Making the house appear much larger than it probably was. But it seemed pretty large to me with it’s front porch the width of the house and it just being so big in my view.
I would pass the side door, keep walking. Curve around the back of the house or I would walk straight into the garage without a garage door. If Grandmother or Grandfather were sitting at their kitchen table, they would each have a window to sit next to as they looked across the table at one another. Grandmother might yell, no, I can’t say yell. Grandmother was too dignified for ‘yelling’. But on occasion if the weather was nice, and her window was open, and she was sitting there smoking a cigarette she may speak out to me and tell me to look up. The sun can’t see my face if I’m looking at my feet. I would smile and bear right slightly to continue my trek towards home. Passing the white bricks and the white Virgin Mary statue so proudly cared for, on my left. I would step from the black top to the long red brick sidewalk.
The sidewalk that we often had to sit at and help pull and scrape those weeds out of. But truly, Grandmother did most of that.
I walked past Grandfather’s tool shed, sitting silently out of the way behind the garage. Since there was no door on his garage, this is where he put his electric mower and other gardening tools. I would pass through, because the sidewalk did, the hedges that split the backyard in two. The entire green backyard belonged to our Grandparents. But our house was on the other side of that backyard.
I don’t know if it was by design or already existed like that. But once I passed through those hedges the backyard on the left of the yard was our domain. The backyard on the right of the sidewalk was also our domain. But only the part that did not hold Grandfather’s vegetable garden. Often he would be in that garden on a spring day, on my way home. I can still see his hat. His gloves. His tan jacket. And a shovel or hoe in his hands.
The sidewalk curved to the left as I approached the back of our garage. The dark green swing set sat there for years, behind the garage. Used and not used, it sat there for a very long time. The brick sidewalk ended where the stone sidewalk began along the side of our garage. The sidewalk was the beginning of our true back yard. To my left was the redwood painted fence that wrapped around the area that was our backyard, and held a swimming pool someone had given my father.
I walked that short path until the sidewalk opened up to the driveway. I walked until I passed the back of the house, and continued to the side door. Always the side door. Turning left to take that short sidewalk to the side door, I opened it, and had to step in and close it to go left and go upstairs. Unless I was going right to go down to the basement.
Walk home for lunch. Walk home when the school day was done.
That walk again, would be amazing.
If I could walk back into that house
The way it was.
Close that door.
And stand there in my childhood.