Sunday, March 08, 2009

House Stories: Fred Flintstone Ain't Got Nothing on Me

House Stories is a collection of personal narratives, a teaching experiment in History of Domestic Architecture (Wesleyan ARTS 637). See Introduction, and Table of Contents.


by Allison DeMartino

I have never owned a house. I have never gone house-hunting or ever had to set up a mortgage. I have lived in two houses, one dorm, and two apartments. All of which have never belonged to me. I was carried home to one, driven reluctantly to the next, flown nearly 350 miles to the third, celebrated the fourth in dramatic fashion, and become a grown-up in the last. I was the child, and now, the less than one year college graduate playing house and learning that washing dishes and scrubbing toilets is not all it is cracked up to be. My memory of a house is one of a child’s. Everything was gigantic. Walking from the family room up the stairs and into my bedroom was a pilgrimage I rarely felt like taking. A house was a structure, complete with the perfect hiding spots, convenient nooks, and a series of plateaus that when scaled carried you, and your army of action figures to the highest point of the house. A house, to my five-year-old self, was my imaginary and mischievous world.

The house I remember best is not the spot of my first kiss, or the spot of my first driving lesson, or even the spot I signed my college acceptance letter. The house I remember best is the house I first was brought home to and the one I truly left my mark on. Brooklyn NY is one of the largest residential areas in the country and one of the most diverse. You could walk for five minutes and have spanned the countries of Italy, Puerto Rico, and Korea. Yet, something uniquely American can be found in each of the neighborhoods you past. This, here in the Marine Park Italian neighborhood of Brooklyn, was my first encounter with a house.
1828 East 29th Street was attached to 1826 and shared a driveway with 1830. It had a small but seemingly vital front stoop, which upon entry would lead you into the living room—the place I took my first steps, watched my first football game, and opened presents of Christmas Day. The next room was the dining room. I don’t remember much, except for cake. Yes, cake. And loud Italian aunts. This is where we celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and, most importantly ate cake. Last, at the back of the house was the kitchen—or since we had no fireplace—the hearth. This is where mom cooked. This is where I ate salads—well cucumbers, croutons, olives and a large helping of balsamic vinegar—before dinnertime every night. These rooms would prove increasingly important to my branding of the 1828 household. You see, the way this house was build and the way my family grew to operate in the morning, my journey from the kitchen table to the front door to then walk the eight blocks to school became somewhat of an adventure; or a mischievous maneuver to avoid my consumption of the orange and grape flavored Flintstones Vitamins given to me at the kitchen table.

For many years parents, especially mine, tired to get me to eat healthy. Despite my nightly bouts with my lettuce-less salads, I was a genuine picky eater and the one thing I hated more then eating yucky food was eating yucky vitamins. Each morning before I set out to school my mom would open the dreaded vitamin cabinet and place Fred Flintstone into my hand. Without hesitation, I would eat the cherry flavored ones, but two-thirds of those bottles contained the worst of the worst flavors imaginable: orange and grape. Five out of seven days I was practically guaranteed a disgusting taste on my tongue. This had to end. Luckily, I soon learned that my mom was far to busy with my little sister Dana to keep a stern eye on me as I walked from the kitchen through the dining room and across the living room to the front door: “You’re five now, you can meet Jen outside to walk to school.” Okay. So my independence from mom and Fred Flintstone began.

1828 was built in the early 1900s. It had cathedral-like windows lining the front of the house and an old-fashion radiator just to the side of the front door. A cream colored metal encasement lined with what seemed like hundreds of holes hid the gurgling heater. Holes large enough for one Fred Flintstone. Each morning after strategically placing Fred on my tongue and refusing to breath as to negate the nastiness of the taste, I would drop him drop through the hole and into the heater. I did this every school day for nearly two years.

My mom is one to clean a lot. She would scrub the bathroom and sweep the floors. But it wasn’t until my parents placed a “For Sale” sign on the front stoop that I would succumb to what would happen next. It was a cloudless June day. A day where you just couldn’t wait to get home just to run back outside and get dirty. I ran up the front stairs, past the chrysanthemum bushes and the “Sold” sticker and threw open the front screen door. And there standing in a baggy old shirt, yellow dishwashing gloves, and flip-flops was my mom. She was not smiling. She was not ready to dig in the sandbox with me. She was staring at me with her hands on her hips and that scary little Italian women expression covering her face. Then she pointed at the radiator. The cream-colored casing was nowhere to be found. Stuck to the radiator and the carpet and the wallpaper was an orange and purple mound nearly a foot high of indistinguishable Fred Flintstones. And Dana sitting in her diaper shouting “Yabba Dabba Do!”

Allison DeMartion is a graduate student at Wesleyan University's Graduate Program in Liberal Studies and a Pre-K teacher in Middlefield, Conn.

No comments:

Blog Archive

Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States