If you’ve ever played Monopoly – and who hasn’t really – then you certainly know St. Charles Place.
In the popular board game it’s the first pink property on the second side of the board. It’s named for a former spot in Atlantic City. In the city of Saratoga Springs it’s a road that connects Grand and West Avenues on the West Side of town. And it’s also a street I grew up on.
The family house on St. Charles Place is fairly simple, a small ranch with a good sized yard, more than adequate for the adventures of a youngster and his friends growing up in a time that compared to the way kids grow nowadays seems like the stone ages. Three bed rooms, one full bathroom, good sized living room and kitchen, and sizable unfinished basement.
My parents bought the house in 1971 and it’s been part of the family ever since. Until today, when we close on its sale and it becomes part of someone else’s family. Thanks to a good memory – despite what my wife might say – I don’t feel overly sentimental to the building itself. But that didn’t stop some good thoughts from coming to the surface as I spent the last few days at the house, sorting, recycling and throwing out what was left in the house after family, friends and others picked out items they thought might be useful or were cherished.
All told the house holds millions of memories, with some rooms more than others. Walking from spot to spot brings them to the surface. Just inside the front door and the entryway to the kitchen makes me think of my sister “climbing” up the door frames, hands and feet touching the wood trim, pushing her toward the ceiling. I know I’ve got a picture somewhere.
Everyone’s kitchen and dining areas should make them remember family dinners, whether it was the four of us while my sister and I were in elementary school, or larger gatherings when grandparents would trek south and north for holiday meals. I’d be remiss not to fondly recall my early teenage years when I’d eat breakfast at the kitchen table and read the newspaper, undisturbed please. Undoubtedly those were formative times for my chosen career many years still down the road.
I couldn’t help but see my father, now gone for nearly 17 years, sitting in his spot at the end of the couch, or a Christmas tree in the front window, or my mother sitting in a chair in the back corner reading or grading papers under a light.
The hallway makes me think of my sister waking up a few hours after going to bed, coming down the hall and starting up either a conversation or an argument with my father, all the while half asleep. I don’t remember it specifically, but it’s been talked about so much through the years that it’s hard not to be right in the moment.
Bathrooms aren’t much for memories, but I remember putting some marketing verbiage on a plastic 2-liter bottle of soda to test. The words said “shatterproof” and the curious mind needed to know if that was indeed true. After a few light drops into the sink, without shattering or breaking mind you, it was time to drop it on the floor. Of course the story wouldn’t be a story if nothing happened. The bottle of course cracked, soda went everywhere and I was subjected to a lesson about the differences between shatterproof and break-proof from my father. I can still hear him today.
My bedroom was at the end of the hall. When bedtime came around before the end of a late-night baseball or football game – and before I watched the conclusion without permission on a small black-and-white television in my room – my father used to tape a piece of paper with the game’s final score on the inside of the door. I asked him to do it and he always did. That was way before the Internet, but boy, talk about craving instant information.
The basement, the last “room” emptied out, holds many memories and some written reminders are there to keep them fresh. Lines drawn on the basement floor represent football fields, hockey rinks and various other sporting venues. Chalk words on the cinderblock walls, mostly saying things like “Boo,” were there for haunted houses built long ago.
Aside from a few items that will be hauled off today and later in the week, they’re all that’s left. Physically speaking, of course. Mentally the memories will linger on, forever.