Janice Whartmore’s assessment of our house as the scariest one on the block had burned a hole in my brain. Was she right? And if so, why?
A couple of days passed before I could begin my self assigned task of trying to get a good look at our house from across the street. I wanted to determine whether or not it was the scariest looking house on the block, as Janice had said, but I had to cope with a few set-backs in my plans. The first delay came when my sister Margie and I arrived home from the grocery store that day; Mom told us we were to finish our chores of dusting and vacuuming the first floor living areas – that wiped out the entire afternoon. The second delay occurred when the Anderson’s, whose front steps I had selected to use as my post for checking out our house, decided that they were going to work in the garden of their front yard that weekend. Why should this be so upsetting, you ask? Why not politely enquire if I could sit on their front steps while they worked? Because I had never spoken to Mr. and Mrs. Anderson in my life, (children were still ‘seen and not heard’ in my circles in the 1950’s) and I wasn’t about to start a conversation with them by asking permission to sit on their steps in order to spy on my own house. A much better idea, to my way of thinking, was to sneak across the street and stealthily sit on their steps without them knowing. You see, the Anderson’s didn’t know any more about talking to kids than I knew about talking to adults since they had no children of their own, nor did we ever see any children visit them.
Mrs. Anderson did come to our house to watch us for a couple of hours one afternoon, though. She must have come over to help out with some kind of emergency since Mom rarely asked a non-family member to care for us. I recall Mrs. Anderson sitting on the edge of her chair in our living room with a box of kleenex on her knees, wiping the nose of every passing child. I was fascinated by her; she seemed to be all one color: beige. Beige hair, beige eyebrows, beige skin, a beige suit and shoes. She did her best that afternoon, I think, but we were too much for her. She never came over again. As far as Mr. Anderson went, I learned from one of my sisters or brothers that he was a lawyer. I was quite impressed with this news until Mom explained that he was not a criminal trial lawyer like the debonair Mr. Perry Mason on TV, but a corporate lawyer who worked quietly behind the scenes at a big, beige office building in downtown Seattle. I should have known.
When I finally did get a chance to scope out our house from the Anderson’s steps, I was surprised to learn these things:
1: Our large, two-story, porch-surrounded, balconied house was placed quite far away from the public sidewalk, at the back edge of a very big front yard. Everyone else on our block had a small to average-sized front yard, with their house being relatively close to the public sidewalk.
2. What I thought of as the friendly old tree next to our mail box was really a gigantic, looming pine tree that threw a huge shadow on our private walkway. We also had very high, dense laurel bushes which made up the front border of our yard. These bushes formed a dark, tunnel like structure through which people had to pass to get to our house.
3. Our house definitely needed painting.
4. Our lawn definitely needed mowing.
5. Janice Whartmore was right, our house was probably the scariest looking house on the block. I could see why she might be afraid to walk up to our front door, especially after dark. And I bet her mean older brother was afraid of our house, too. Perfect!