September 29, 2020

Growing Up

posted on: Thursday April 10, 2014

by Kiernan Dunlop ’14
Senior Portfolio Staff

The house seemed so big to me then. I guess most things did at the time. The lake out front could’ve been an ocean for all I knew. The fact that it was right outside my front door made it seem like it was just for me, and anyone else who even wanted to look at it needed my permission.

I spent most of my time over at the neighbor’s house, an old woman who treated my sisters and me like family. Tessie would give us a nickel each to chase away the Canadian geese that would flock to her front yard with old brooms. When we got bored of chasing the geese, we would start playing witches and chase each other around. When darkness began to set in, Tessie would call us in and make us a big spaghetti dinner, and we’d eat in the living room on TV trays watching Murder, She Wrote.

When the trees started to bloom and nature began waking up, the turtles would come. Momma turtles would crawl from the lake up to our yard and dig holes to bury their eggs. It’s a funny thing to see a turtle digging a hole using her hind legs. My sisters and I would watch the holes to make sure neighborhood dogs or raccoons wouldn’t get to them. I never understood why the mommas just abandoned their babies like that, but I guess that’s just how nature works sometimes. Two months later, the eggs would hatch and the little babies tried their best to make it to the water. If we saw one that was having a hard time, we would help it out and bring it down to the water’s edge. Our parents let us keep a few one year, but they didn’t live very long, so we didn’t keep any more after that.

During the summer, we used the lake to cool off. There was a rope swing hanging from a tree branch next to the playground. The older kids used to jump off of it and do tricks. Our mom banned us from ever using it, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t. We made an obstacle course. The first to swing 10 times on the swings, go down the slide, go across the monkey bars backwards, spin around three times, and jump off the rope swing into the water won. My older sister always won until she started caring more about boys than playing with her little sisters.

On days when you could see your breath and the lake was frozen over, my father would pull out his ice skates and our old sled to drag us around on the ice. It made me feel like I was in another world when he took us out there. Snow would glimmer and shine on the trees, and if he took us out far enough, I couldn’t see our house anymore. We were all instantly transported into a magical frozen wonderland as my dad tugged us along to the outer banks.

These days, the magic is all gone. My family and I moved because my dad needed to find a new job and no one was hiring around us. Soon after, Tessie moved down to Florida, and a few years later she passed away. We only learned about her death over a year after it happened.

I didn’t know then that we lived in a dangerous neighborhood, or that someone was murdered in a house a few down from ours. I didn’t know that my mom lay awake at night, afraid that something was going to happen to one of us. I never thought of our new house as safer or more kid-friendly. I just thought of it as boring because all we had across the street was another house.

Going back, nothing is the same. The house is small, the lake is small, and the playground down the street has rusted away. Shingles patch the roof of my old house, the door hangs on by one hinge, and it looks like it could be condemned. New families play by the lake, and new couples are starting their lives. Memory is the only place in which my house on the lake now lives.

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