Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Separate Garage - part 1

One summer my parents decided to build a separate garage, not attached to the house, to hold all of the fun things you need out in the country. I suppose it was also to hold a workshop for Dad. I vaguely remember stages of the construction. OK, I only have one memory of the construction. It was when Marvin and I were running around on the foundation that had been poured and set. Surefooted creature I am not, and this wasn't all that wide of a surface. Though I probably tried to summon my gymnastics days on the on the balance beam (which I wouldn't ever call successful), I lost my balance when picking up the pace a bit and took a nasty fall on the corner. My knee had a huge gash in it and blood poured down my leg into my sock. I was taken inside and plopped in the bathtub to be cleaned up by Unsympathetic Mom, who had most likely told me way too many times to not run on the foundation. I had to do it anyway. Marvin was doing it. I still have the scar on my knee today. It's the only scar I have, and I can't say I mind it too much because it reminds me of getting caught up in the moment of a challenge.

Fast forward... the garage is built, painted a cream color and trimmed in dark brown to match our 70s colored house. The garage became the center of the days outside. Everything started there and began there. The summer days would start with me or one of my parents going outside and opening the garage door. It was made of a thick plastic that turned yellow over time. I still see those types of garage doors today and think did those people know it was going to turn such an awful color of yellow? The door screeeeched all the way up as you lifted it. It really did have its own song. I could even hear it in the house sometimes. Simply defined, the garage was symbol of the day starting. Having the garage door up was friendly and welcoming. Today at my own house with my own separate garage, I hate when the door is down while we're outside. It feels cold and unsettled. It's funny how these things get mapped in one's mind.

The garage held all of the yard equipment, my bike and toys, and every other outside tool or game that we had. Marvin called it our barn. I didn't agree that it was a barn. It had a concrete floor and there weren't animals in it. I think he said it was a barn because it wasn't attached to the house. My argument was that it needed hay and to smell of horses for it to be a barn. We debated it and eventually both called it what we wanted.

There was a toy box by the man-door where all of my yard/outside toys were kept. I believe it was just a sturdy cardboard box. It held the basketball, wiffle balls, plastic trucks and cars and other things for the sandbox, jump ropes, the boomerang, the nerf football, blocks of wood, small hand saws from time to time (but I think this is only when I forgot to put them back in their proper location), and probably a few other things I'm forgetting. By the trashcan near the garage door hung the badminton rackets and hoops for Jarts. That all hung on the stair ladder that went up to the loft in the top overhang of the garage. I didn't like to touch the ladder area, nor was I a huge fan of retrieving certain toys from the toy box that we really had to dig for, all because of my extreme fear of spiders. I was much more brave with Marvin around for some reason.

We didn't usually stay in the garage for long. Retrieving a undershot basketball, getting toys out, drawing roads with chalk for our Hotwheels: these are a few of the in-garage times I can think of. I do remember a particular game of Madd that we played on the garage floor one afternoon. We argued and argued about the rules. I don't think that the Madd game was really designed to play for enjoyment, but more to make people mad. It worked on us. We were probably too young to understand...we just really liked reading the Madd magazines.

On the left side of the outside of the garage, Mom had a flowerbed. We played in the corner of the flower bed with our Hotwheels in the dirt...the best place to play with Hotwheels. The trucks we had would weave in and out of the flowers, over clumps of the clay-packed dirt, down towards the yard where the dirt edge met the grass, which was usually deemed the highway. There was also the part where the asphalt outside of the man-door met the dirt of the flowerbed. I distinctly remember the hump transition and how we would change our vehicles' speeds when getting on the pavement after having been bogged down in dirt. For long chunks of time, we squatted around each other, changing spots back and forth, moving the little cars and trucks. It was so satisfying.

The garage was the hub. I had no idea how important it was until I started to think about how we used to play football. We would go to the toy box to get the green and white Nerf football out... ah the toybox, in the garage...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Riding Bikes

My driveway was longish, about a tenth of a mile. When I was in the third grade (I think) we had it paved. We called it black top. I remember feeling like we were rich, because now our entire driveway was like a street.

This made for some excellent bike riding!

Marvin's driveway was gravel. More accurately, it should have been called rock. It consisted of huge rocks. Even when ours was gravel, it was gravelly gravel. I'm not sure why his driveway – excuse me, lane (as he liked to call it) – was base layer sized rocks. The few times that I rode down the lane in a car felt rough. And it also felt so weird to be moving parallel to my own driveway and see the view from Marvin's side. I liked it – it was as if I stepped into his head for a moment to see something he saw. The lane was white and the approaching house was very dark in the woods.

Back to my driveway. One of the activities that filled our days was riding our bikes. We went up and down the driveway, and through the yard sometimes, but mostly up and down the driveway. Marvin raced BMX and had one of those bikes first. I had a pink Huffy that used to be my older cousins'.

June 1983.
That's a Pinto in the corner. And the green electrical boxin the
background is where the path through the field connecting our houses began.

We liked to make skid marks with our tires. It was so easy – remember coaster breaks? I would go over the handlebars if I got on a bike with coaster breaks now.

A select few other things that happened thanks to the bikes:
Pretending we were cars. The driveway sealer line a few feet up from the big turnaround area by the house was where "town" began. The tree by the driveway a little further up was a McDonald's drive-thru.
Pulling each other on skateboards and/or roller skates. Get a jump rope, tie it to the back of the Huffy (see convenient silver bar off back of seat in above photo), hang on. I remember a crash landing in the yard between the house and garage. Roller skates stop in grass.
Wheelies! Marvin could always do this better. And when he got a...uh...trick bike? then the wheelies and indo's and other fun things were way beyond what I could do on the Huffy. After the BMX bike shown above, he he stepped it up to a lime green bike that had mag wheels and pegs on the front and back.

Riding our bikes was a staple to our days together. It was the good old standby when we were out of other options or just wanted to move. So simple.

In the Beginning...

In the beginning, there was Marvin.
We grew up together, and we played together all the time. Outside. All day.

As long as I can remember, Marvin was a part of my life. We were born 3 months apart; I was a baby in the blizzard of '78, and he was yet to enter the world. We grew. And we knew each other well. And it was good.

Marvin's older sister, Heather, held us both. There are pictures that prove it. I don't remember when I became aware of Marvin. He was always just there. When we were old enough to start playing by ourselves, we did. My memories playing together probably start with when I was old enough to use the phone.

A typical summer day began with one of us getting up and calling the other house. 884-7667, or 884 POOP as Marvin liked to brag.
"Is Marvin there?" A pause as he is called for.
"Hi can you come over and play?"
"Let me ask." Muffled voices. "Yes."
"OK bye."

The Ground Rules. Simple, really.
1. I didn't go over to Marvin's house much, if at all. I was told the reason was because of my allergies; their house was in the woods. I didn't know all of the real reasons when I was little.
2. We weren't allowed to play inside. Mom was a neat freak. Plus we were kids and should have been playing outside anyway. It never bothered us.

Marvin would ride his bike over, either up his lane and down my driveway (he called it a lane and I called it a driveway) or through the field. When the plants were still small, we'd pick a bunch of them out to make a path. As years went on the paths became more complicated with curves and row shifts. I think I even remember two paths one year: a simple straight one and one that curved; I suppose this allowed for choosing what kind of path he felt like that day.

Those are the basics. Our days outside revolved around playing with each other most days, for most of the day. Breaks for meals or errands were taken, and then we resumed. There are many, many memories and I don't want to forget. This is my childhood.