The “Siblings & Dad” thread on my phone pinged a few weeks ago on a Sunday morning. My brother, Bob, forwarding a link about the brownstone on 4th Street in the Park Slope neighborhood in Brooklyn that was home to my family in the 60s and early 70s. It is for rent. Wouldn’t it be cool to lease it for a year?
I opened the link, and I found photos and a floor plan of the interior. It looks amazing. I can tell you that it did not look like this when six children were running amok on the parquet floors and squeaky stairs of the old house. I remember the place much differently.
Call it nostalgia, romanticizing my past, and conjuring up my earliest memories. I am probably guilty on all three counts. The thought of leasing the place for a year opens up a range of possibilities. I could finally retire from the job that leaves me exhausted and disappointed, and I could work on that book idea that has been bouncing around in my head. I could use the second-floor bedroom that overlooks the quiet Brooklyn street of my childhood as my writer’s room. That room was, in fact, the room I shared with my older brother until he moved up to the small third-floor bedroom when my younger brother was born and moved in with me.
I can tell you that the ground floor was not finished like it is today. Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, there was no “Recreation Room.” It was the basement, home of the gas furnace, and the storage place for Christmas decorations, bikes, and boxes of miscellaneous stuff. The storage area on the floor plan once housed the “4th Street International Speedway.” Illuminated by a light fixture hanging from the ceiling and a small window on the top of the wall that let in light from the backyard, this was the home of my brother’s elaborate Aurora slot car set with an HO scale train set crossing the roadway to add to the drama. I wonder if the elder ginger of the family has “Speedway” photos.
The “parlor floor” is the main living space. The photos for the listing are fantastic, although much different than when we were there.
The blue carpet is long gone. Brilliant restoration work has revealed amazing woodwork, tile, and cast iron from the late 19th century.
The kitchen has had a significant facelift. The unruly mob, with a dog, has given way to lots of counter space and cabinets. No knock on my Mom’s decorating, but that wallpaper had to go! Alas, poor Buffy, that is the last photo I have of the neurotic beagle.
The backyard looks meticulously kept. The only backyard photos I could find in the “Wayback Machine” were at the redwood picnic table. The original iron fence between our yard and the neighbor’s in 564 seems to be still standing. I miss the dog in my little brother’s lap in the “way before” photo. Samantha (Sam) was acquired by my father and my sister at E.J. Korvettes in Brooklyn.
I looked for photos of the rooms on the second and third floors back in the day but came away disappointed. I will show you my room as it looks today. All I need you to do is mentally pull out anything of value, replace the big bed with bunk beds against the wall, pull up the rug, and toss orange hot wheel tracks and cars haphazardly around books and my little brother’s Playschool toys. Hang (poorly assembled) airplane models from the ceiling and cover the mantle with a British Army marching band, a Corgi hook and ladder fire truck, and a small ship cannon I picked up at Mystic Seaport on a family road trip. That should give you a better idea of the tornadic damage an eleven-and-a-four- year-old boy inflicted on that room in the early 1970s.
My parent’s room is now a sitting room, and my older sister’s room has evolved from the 4th Street Bobby Sherman Fan Club Headquarters to a home office.
I have convinced myself that this is where I need to be. Inquiries were made on the internet listing. The monthly rent is only $11,000 a month. (Choke, cough, “Really?”) Perhaps the memoir or the novel will have to wait for another day and another place. Of course, before I could get to it, it was already spoken for, contract signed. It seems it is not the time to quit my day job.
I will note that Miranda Lambert’s song, The House That Built Me, haunted me while I was digging for photos for this post. I will link it below. The sentiment can apply to a house in Lindale, Texas or a brownstone in Brooklyn, New York.