Hell Hole

Excerpted from my memoir, Postcards from the Secret City.  I drove down Atlanta Road and Ditman Lane the other day, remembering our family life in both of the old houses.

I think moves are hard on children in general; they don't care about new, shiny, bigger, or better. I was seven years old when we moved to Ditman Lane the week before Thanksgiving, in 1959. That move sure was hard on me. 


Saturday Morning, December, 1959

I sit at the kitchen table,  the new maple one with the three captain’s chairs and the single first mate’s chair.  I’m the only first mate; everyone else, even Anita, is a captain.

I stare at my turquoise melamine plate.  Something’s wrong, my throat is closing up.  I feel like I’m going to gag.

Daddy’s sitting at the table too, wolfing breakfast down with gusto.  Mother stands at her new built in copper tone stove, drinking coffee and flipping pancakes.

I look around our new kitchen.  The turquoise counter tops and copper fixtures are shiny.  Morning sun floods the braided rug in front of the fire place in the den next to the kitchen.  On the other side of the swinging door, the living room is empty.  The comfortable old couch and rocking chair where we used to sit on Atlanta Road are in the basement.  Mother and Daddy are going to buy new living room furniture.

My bedroom furniture is new too. I have a fancy new white and gold twin bed with a turquoise satin bedspread.   But Mother won’t let me sit on or sleep under the bedspread.  I’m supposed to fold and put it on the new gold satin chair in the corner before I go to bed. 

Daddy finishes his pancakes, pushes his chair aside and heads back downstairs.  He’s staining the floor in his study.  The varnish he’s using stinks of over ripe bananas, ether and insecticide.  I’ve been trying not to breathe through my nose all morning.  Now my head hurts and I can’t eat.  Everything-- pancakes, milk, maple syrup, even the air-- tastes like oily, noxious varnish.  

I sit alone at the table, contemplating my surroundings. Despair settles over me. I want to go back to Atlanta Road.  This new house on Ditman Lane is a hell hole. 

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