Tuesday, February 14, 2017

15751 South Park Avenue: When a House is More Than Just a House

My friend Janet posted this photo of her childhood home on Facebook. Someone has rehabbed it a bit (nice tile back splash in the kitchen, by the way), polished the original woodwork, and is selling it. It is a charming Chicago-style brick bungalow. But that is not why this photo struck my heart.

Immediately my mind was flooded with memories of our time together as little girls. Janet and I spent many Sunday afternoons in this house at 15751 South Park Avenue, in South Holland, Illinois. Even if the real estate company hadn’t given the street address and provided photos I would have recognized it.

The Aarup family attended the same church as mine – our parents were friends. And, I became an honorary Aarup most Sunday afternoons after church, inviting myself over for Sunday dinner, playing all the way up until the evening church service. Janet’s house number, 15751, was the same backward and forward. I had it memorized; I had her phone number memorized also. But it is her family’s house that will forever be etched in my mind.

I don’t think we had air conditioning in those days, so our families relied on window units and big box fans. On hot summer afternoons, Janet and I would place a big flat bed sheet on the living room floor and set books all around the edges. Then, we’d take the living room fan and insert it at one end of our makeshift tent. It would blow up, igloo-shaped, and we’d sit inside and giggle and talk. It was all fun until her dad came home and wondered why we had commandeered the fan that was cooling down the rest of the stuffy house.

I also remember spending time in that brown-paneled basement. We had sleepovers with girlfriends – one time having a spitting contest, propelling grape seeds into the toilet. Again, it was all fun until the toilet overflowed at 2 a.m. Needless to say, her long-suffering father was not pleased. I seem to remember steam coming out of his ears.

We also crafted in that indestructible room. We had this brilliant idea to do a hair transplant from her sister’s doll with her long, luxurious locks to Janet’s baby doll which had a sad little plastic, bald, molded head. We put on “lab coats,” after raiding her dad’s closet for white shirts, and set up a makeshift operating table, laying both dolls side by side.

We snipped away, getting a huge mound of donor hair, and then set about gluing it to the poor, bald baby doll. Of course, we had not thought what her older sister would say. When Robin returned she was furious, and Janet and I got a good scolding.

Her house was on a main street, and we could walk down the block to the South Holland Bowl. They had  a little restaurant attached where aproned ladies  served sandwiches to hungry bowlers. I remember stopping in there for a bottled Coke and taking our time sipping it on our walk back to her house.

We had one more escapade in the 15751 house. There was a huge vacant lot just to the north, and we loved to play there. So when a builder came and began surveying the lot to build two more homes, we were upset. We waited till they were done for the day and then quietly pulled out the stakes, every last one of them. Alas, we were unsuccessful (although probably criminal). Today there are two houses firmly planted just to the north of hers, but not without the vigilant, aggressive protest of two young girls.

It was nice to see you again, 15751. Thank you for allowing me to visit, play, and get into all sorts of trouble. You are forever in my heart.