Stories from an Unconventional Childhood, Week Three

Over at Mommy’s Piggy Tales there’s a cool project going on about family history. There is a challenge to blog for 15 weeks about our growing up years, with a different time period covered each week. Spitfire talked me into joining in because she’s hoping for some wild stories from my childhood.

When I started first grade, it was a bit of a shock for me. I already knew we were different, but when I started school, I was suddenly surrounded by kids that were my age physically, but seemed another age altogether in other ways. Imagine being in college one day and in first grade the next. They had never seen drug use or people drunk or nude. They didn’t even know where babies came from! I quickly learned to keep what I knew to myself and talk and act like any other kid my age. I put what I had seen or heard or done in the past. But some things didn’t disappear easily. I still had an advanced vocabulary and the top reading group was too easy for me. Still, I managed to make a few friends and learned how to fit in.

My house bridged the gap in my life. The outside looked like every other house in the neighborhood, with it’s established lawn, sprawling oaks and white clapboard. The inside, on the other hand, reflected the other part of my life. From the moment you opened the door, it was like stepping into another realm and I learned as much there as I did in school.

The living room was painted matte black. Wild, abstract print black-and-white curtains, sewn by my mother, graced the windows. One wall was covered with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, made from black, painted boards and black fabric-covered cinder blocks, artfully arranged. The shelves held hardcover art books, an assortment of art magazines, a few paperback novels and some textbooks. In between, a variety of pottery and sculpture was on display. The floor was covered in an amazing rug, assembled by my mom and dad, from salvaged carpet scraps and several rolls of carpet tape. Several of my dad’s large paintings decorated the walls. Comfortable floor cushions and a black-light completed the look. All their college friends that visited pronounced the room “groovy”. From this room, I learned about creativity and making something out of nothing.

The next room was the dining room. It had the same curtains as the living room and paintings on the wall, but the centerpiece of the room was the table my dad made out of part of a chrome sofa base topped with a stained and varnished uncut door, both purchased for next-to-nothing. The table was just tall enough for an adult to fit his or her knees under it while sitting cross-legged on the floor. I have happy memories of this room filled with people, as it frequently was. Mom and Dad loved inviting people over and feeding them. At the end of each semester, they held a stone-soup style pizza party. Crust, sauce and three cheeses were provided and everyone who came brought their favorite pizza toppings. Super deluxe pizzas were made and consumed with gusto. The group could be a bunch of rowdy art majors or a mix of education majors, musicians and guys from the local motorcycle shop. In this room I learned about hospitality and how good food can bring diverse groups together.

As much as I loved those rooms, my favorite room of the house was my room. It was actually one of the more “normal” rooms in the house, but special in its own way. It was a bright sunny room at the back corner of the house. Two walls were covered with windows. The rug, another one made from carpet scraps, looked like a giant patchwork quilt. A toy box held my Tinkertoys and blocks, stuffed animals and dolls. My favorite part was the quilt on my bed. It was a quilt made by my grandmother and my mother. The blocks were pictures my mom, as a little girl, had colored. The pictures were then ironed onto muslin and assembled with blue gingham for the backing, binding and sashing. From this room, I learned about heritage and family. I also learned the importance of having a quiet place to think and dream and grow. I also found a love of quilts that continues to this day.

As a homeschooler, my home is, by design, both a place to live and a place to learn. But the truth is that every home is a place to learn something, whether good or bad. What did you learn in your home growing up?

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