1976… 0630 hours… Outpost Sidecut… Christmas morning………
I’m the first up, my three brothers are still asleep. I make my way to the Dutch-door that guards the descent. Creeping down the stairs, my hand has a tight grasp on the hand hewn oak railing. I must hold firmly and lightly jump-skip the next tread, it’s the one that creaks. Kneeling down to peer below the ceiling I see the glowing fire of orange, blue, red, yellow, and the suffering wood, crackling and popping is a comforting sound- someone beat me to it and is already up. I stay frozen in my spot, fighting the heat of the fireplace as it radiates across the room and through my body.
I make my way down to the first floor. Directly ahead of me is a step down to the entry foyer and in sight is the bathroom door- thankfully it’s ajar and I can see via the mirror reflection down the hall that my father’s room door is still shut. I make a U-turn and enter the living room. I look down into the kitchen, lights off. I turn left and look through the glass doors to the dining room, still set from the night before for dinner today. Glancing up and to the right, I confirm no one else is wake upstairs yet. Looking back to the left is the tree, freshly cut a week prior from the woods. Suddenly a faint rustle is heard, I quickly dash across the living room and into the kitchen. The reddish colored linoleum floor in the kitchen is cold on the feet, I dive under the table. Ten minutes pass, it must have been the cat. Getting up from the floor I look out the bank of windows spanning the rear of the house in the breakfast area. I look out across the back yard towards the horse barn and my father’s woodshop… Yes! The field is pure white, it snowed last night!
Making my way back to the living room to investigate what’s under the tree, another noise! This time I crawl behind the chair that is in the alcove to the left of the fireplace. The mantle clock is ticking as if it’s a bomb about to detonate and it seems to be synced to the beating of my chest. I’ve got good cover, behind the chair and above me low shelf’s displaying my dad’s stein collection… I’m one with the darkness. I peak under the chair and I see it, the box that’s about the right size, can it be? I see my name on it and I’m hoping it’s… I begin making my way to the box under the tree.
Half way between the chair and the tree I hear my dad getting up, not good. We were to stay in bed until he was up. Not enough time to make it up the stairs without being spotted, I know what needs to happen next. I run and jump down the step into the foyer. The door to my dad’s room is to the left and starting to open. Maintaining momentum I continue straight into the bathroom, where my dad is headed… I keep going because the door on the other end of the bathroom opens into a small office, taking a left I run into the playroom, my dad’s now shutting the door to the bathroom. I take another left and run towards the entry to the playroom, hang a left, a right, jump up one step and I’m now on the stairs back up to my bedroom, whew made it! Just as I turn into my bedroom, I see my dad in the middle of the room with a big grin on his face asking me why I’m making so much noise creeping around the house, busted on Christmas morning!
My childhood home holds great memories for me. At the time I was unaware of the gift our home gave- it served as a frame of reference for our daily life which in turn became our memories. It’s been 30+ years since I’ve lived in the house, but my memories are fresh because I have the house as a reference that enhances my memories recollection- textures, sights, sounds, smells, all contained within a house, a home… architecture.