241 East Livingston Place.
No one had ever lived there before us. It was a clean slate; a brand new house that smelled of paint and possibility. I was 11 when we moved in.
There was a pea gravel driveway and Dad liked lots of lush landscaping: liriope (though we called it “monkey grass”), ligustrums, palm trees, birch trees, and dogwoods.
We put in a pool in the backyard. One night Mom roused us from our cozy beds. Apparently the entire frog population of southeastern Louisiana had migrated to our freshly dug pit, not yet plastered. It seemed they were either very chatty with one another or it was mating season. Either way, we used brooms and rakes to coax them into garbage cans. We walked the cans down to the ditch at the end of the next block and introduced them to their new home so we could finally sleep.
There were railroad tracks nearby. At first the trains and their whistles bothered me; I stared at the ceiling at night, watching my fan go round and round. I started having irrational fears and stopped sleeping. Mom was a trooper. She’d come in my room and talk to me, sometimes rub my back for awhile to help me fall asleep.
We had a brass mail slot in the front door. Darby, our Yorkshire Terrier, ripped up the mail as it came in, shredding it to pieces if we weren’t there to rescue it first. We’d come home to a pile of torn up envelopes, flyers and paper, wet with doggie drool.
The unfinished third floor became our attic. Steep steps led up to a small area that became the backdrop for a Magellan video, a history assignment I had in seventh grade. Lori, Cecilia, Genevieve and I sweated like mad and put together a silly script. I played Barbara Walters, wearing a pale pink dress with shoulder pads that belonged to my mom. Lori took the role of Magellan, sporting a funny-smelling old man mask we had. One of my parents tilted the video camera from side to side to emulate a rolling ship at sea.
My room had dark green, almost turquoise carpet and light pink paint on the walls. I remember sitting on the floor, still in my red plaid uniform skirt, cutting myself for the first time. I was maybe 12 or 13 years old.
I cried in that room when I had a fight with my best friend. We stopped speaking to one other for a long time. It was rough. Rougher than I let on to anyone.
Sometimes late at night, I’d crawl under my bed to talk to my few friends on the phone. Being under there helped muffle the noise of my voice, because I wasn’t supposed to be up that late, or be tying up the phone for that long (pre-call waiting, a-hem).
I had my own bathroom (one of the advantages of being the only girl). Back then I showered and washed my hair every day (funny how that’s changed). In the small cabinet underneath my sink I had a set of tall, skinny pink & purple rollers and a crimping iron. And some Studio Line from L’Oréal products.
I remember running up to my room after the family meeting we had when my parents told us they were getting divorced. I grabbed my phone with shaking hands and dialed number after number until I got someone on the line. I made plans to leave and grabbed my backpack and a jacket out of my closet. I knew somehow that nothing would be the same when I returned. I looked around at my stuff and thought about how different things look after tragedy hits.
We moved into 241 East Livingston Place as a nuclear family. We left fragmented and a little frayed around the edges.