16 years ago today, we moved into our house in Westford, Massachusetts.
It is hard to put into words what that house meant to me. At this point, it almost feels like a flashback from a coming-of-age movie. I distinctly remember very specific things, like my pink wallpaper leftover from the past owners, which had pictures of little girls at tea, the massive two-CD stereo my parents gave me that I played my first CDs on and discovered my first favorite songs (It’s My Life by Bon Jovi, later Fergalicious, and also a life-long hatred of the song Time of Your Life by Green Day).
In that playroom, I would put in the CDs I got from somewhere into the big stereo, and listen to the songs one by one and read the song titles. I remember thinking Vitamin C’s Friends Forever was the saddest song ever, but it was about graduating college and wouldn’t affect me until later anyway.
In the playroom, I had my own computer. My dad taught me how to type when I was around 8, and by the time we learned to type in school, I was 10x the ppm of everyone around me. On that computer I learned every tip and trick, including how to bypass my dad’s website restrictions by pasting the url into the document finder on Windows.
In that playroom, I had one side of the fireplace that also faced the living room. I once sat in my Elmo chair and accidentally leaned onto the glass and burned the chair.
In that playroom, I made so much WordArt, so many websites, and wrote so many things.
In the piano room, we had a Christmas tree. I once printed out a list made on WordArt of 15 different things I wanted for Christmas, complete with notes of what I wanted most and things I didn’t really care about. My parents didn’t see it and I ended up getting stockings full of staplers, tape, and more from the store my dad owned at the time.
In the piano room, we had a Steinway piano and red walls, only to have them painted a boring beige when we were selling the house.
In that living room, the walls were green and the carpet was beige. We had four ceiling lights, a stone fireplace with an electric fire, and a big brown leather couch that was sanded from how old it was.
In that living room, we had a beige carpet that our cat once peed on. My dad used orange soap to clean it and my mom yelled at him.
In that living room, I watched OnDemand for hours after school, from the Berenstain (stein) Bears, to Franklin, Dora, Dragon Tales, Suite Life, Disney XD, every single show ever, I’m in a Band, and more.
In that living room, we had a $200 coffee table that lifted up to store things inside and lift the table top to a perfect writing level. It was $200 from Bernie and Phyll’s and I remember sitting next to it when I saw it so that no one else would buy it.
In the master bedroom, I got mad at my mom once and slammed the walk-in closet door on my own foot. I still have the scar to this day.
In that master bedroom, we had a large window facing the side of the house and the opening of the garage. I would get yelled at for jumping because it would bring the house down and I would fall through the floor into the garage. I would also wake up as soon as I heard the garage door open at 7 am and kneel at the window and wail as my mom’s car pulled out of the driveway for work.
In the master bedroom walk-in closet, I made my own forts with no blankets. I brought my favorite stuffed animals and pillow and pretended to live there forever. It was inspired by the Suite Life of Zack and Cody episode where Cody gets mad at Zack and lives in his closet. It was also the spot I retreated to when I got angry and decided to move out of my room and into the walk-in closet.
In that master bedroom, there was a pile of blankets in the corner and I thought I could hide under them and lay down flat and my mom wouldn’t be able to find me during hide-and-seek.
In that master bathroom, I would soak in the jacuzzi for hours, sit in a bin and drive around like a boat, and then sit in a towel next to the heating vent for another hour.
In the playroom, I would take our wireless landline after school and hang out via phone with my best friend Diana, who lived two streets away from me. I didn’t realize how ridiculous it was to stay on the phone for 44 minutes straight until my parents realized what I was doing the fifth time around.
In that house, I stayed at home for the first time, at a time when the legal age to stay at home alone was 13. I felt like I was almost committing a crime and felt like an adult.
In that house, we never used the front door, except for new guests. Everyone else came through the garage door.
In that house, I came home after school when I was older and allowed to be home alone through the garage door, which was locked, then through an unlocked door into the house. I always thought it was unsafe.
In that driveway, we played badminton, hopscotch, kickball, and did scooter tricks.
In that driveway, snow plowing turned into free rides for me in our huge four foot shovel that I sat in and rode down hills of snow.
In that driveway, snow would pile up 3-4 feet in the snowiest winters. One winter we came back from a three-week trip to China and came back to knee-deep snow.
In that front yard, we had a large rock with a tree on the right side that would bloom fiery red in the fall, green in the summer, and purple in the spring, and I would stand on the rock and feel like a king. On the left side, there was another island with an ugly, droopy tree I never played on.
In that front yard, I tried laying in the grass and having fun like they do in TV and in commercials, only to get stabbed by grass and see live insects crawling around me.
In that neighborhood, we were the only house without a signature tree right next to the mailbox, and the only house with a driveway that angled into the side of our house and I thought it made us special.
In that neighborhood, we once drove home one night to find firefighters all over our house. It looked like a scene from Little Fires Everywhere.
In that neighborhood, my best friend lived in a different cul-de-sac. She was one year younger than me and our parents would take turn taking care of us after school because all of our parents worked. When I was in second grade and she was in first grade, we would get angry at each other on the bus ride home and then sprint home and whoever made it there first was “better.” When it snowed we would sled down her front yard. She was family friends with the neighbor, and we would ride sleds down their huge backyard hill during the winter.
In that neighborhood, I would get dropped off at True Bean and Cutter and waddle my way home, past the Flanagans, the Leongs, the Dus, and other neighbors I didn’t know.
In that neighborhood, I would take my flat scooter, which was essentially a skateboard with handles, ride around the block and come to a bigger street in the cul-de-sac that had a slight slope, push as hard as I could with my legs and squat down on the board and fly down the hill.
In that neighborhood, Diana and I once thought it would be an interesting idea to walk from her street to my neighborhood. She was only one street over, but it still took about 60 seconds by car to arrive. One day after school we walked through her backyard, through leaves and trees until we hit the backyard of one of my neighbors, only to realize we had to cross the private property of someone I’d never met. We hopped over their low fence, sprinted through their backyard, into their front yard, and onto the road, and got to my house.
Another time we skipped the backyard walk and went straight onto the main road. We were right outside the entrance of my neighborhood when my family’s car pulled up and my dad yelled at me for being outside and we pretended we were picking rocks.
Even for years after we moved I had fever dreams where I explored the house only to find new rooms, tripping down stairs with no rails, and even woke up, expecting to be lying in a bed, facing a wall with the door to the left, pink walls and dark pink curtains to the right, only to open my eyes to a white room with the door on the right and brown curtains on the left. I woke up at 6 to take the 6:55 bus so I could take the hour-long bus ride to school, after taking 15 minute rides to Robinson and Crisafulli.
In that town, there was a lane leading to a vast neighborhood that I had only ever gotten glimpses of, filled with mansions and houses unlike the rest of the town. Only years after we had moved and gone back to visit did we stumble upon it again and drive in, and it really was full of million-dollar houses.
In that library, I would find every single magazine I wanted, every single book I wanted, go into the kids section even though I was in middle school, and check out 25 items at once. I would pile them into the backseat of the car and go through them at home. When I got older I had to move to the older kids’ section, where there was a place to work, and got my first taste of a college workspace.