As part of a project for the Brooklyn Art Library, the Art House Co-op challenged 500 people to write a letter to their old home. I had many old homes to choose from, but this is the one I chose. The reference for the painting was a google street view!
Dear 565A Summer Avenue
You are the house of my dreams. For 50 years I have dreamed of your rooms, your halls and your stairs. Where once I played and read and watched television (when the president was shot and then Lee Harvey Oswald..) still lodges in my brain.
You were the far side of a duplex. The fair side in my opinion. Your front porch was probably screened in once, but even without a screen, it was a wonderful place to play. Your outside wall was so close to the house next door, that we had a window that let in almost no light- no one liked that room much, so we stored curious things in it.
And only me and my cats could get between you and the house next door, because the space was so narrow. My secret was the secret entrance to the back yard – your yard, which was the only disappointment I had with you, it’s too small. I did try to grow a Pussy willow there, but my stepfather mowed it down.
I was a city kid, and soon after I left you, I escaped the city. I quested for mountains, country roads, and wide open spaces. But then, after less than 10 years, I came back to the city; albeit a much younger one, on the left coast, and; just as when I was living in your attic, I can hear and smell my neighbors, it is a fact of life, now I like my neighbors better, and we share with them the fruits of my back yard, figs, plums, cherries.
I checked you out on google maps, even though you are in the heart of Newark, NJ, you are still in a healthy neighborhood, but now you are painted brown instead of the grey I remember. Maybe now there are less children running up and down the streets, or effortlessly rollerskating on the blue slates in front of you, in fact, they took the slates out and now all the sidewalks are boring cement.
I loved the circular windows and the built in desks in my attic bedroom. I loved how I could climb right out on the roof from the attic hallway. That was another secret place. You had other secrets too; in some attic space was found ancient notebooks, belonging to a child – filled with slashes and circles, page after page. Who stored those notebooks there, and the shutters? The tiny mezuzah holders on the walls, and even the gas lamp fixtures were still in your walls, and the push buttons to turn the lights on and off.
Now I live somewhere that shutters do not exist, gas lamps are for camping, and pushbuttons are on the remote control for the television. But you are still with me. I dream about you in various stages of repair, I dream about you with new fascinating hidden rooms, I think, did I know that room was there?
I long to drive through Newark, NJ again, so this time I can stop, knock on your door and request a tour. I am sure the new owner would think I was nuts. Can they speak English? How many languages have been spoken between your walls anyway?
Dear 565A Summer Avenue, I lived in a lot of houses as a child, but you are the only one which actually resides in my brain. I hope someone plants flowers in your yard, I see the Rhododendron is gone, you deserve another.
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