Jordan Hall

12 February 2009
Ackerman
Honors American Literature

First Avenue

The history of First Avenue would have never concerned me. It is an ugly lot, in an ugly neighborhood. To most, this place exists only as a junkyard. Old, dilapidated cars rest their souls in the waist-high yellow grass and prickly weeds. Tires buried halfway into the ground, an old hot tub that has fallen through its wood platform, and an old house sitting in the back corner of this lot. I enhabit this places as my home for now, in the past, and forever.
Without the pressures and strain of everyday life, First Avenue seems far away from society. But this is no ordinary resort or escape; it is removed because it needs to be. Nobody likes to see the world exist as it did at this house. So that’s why it hides behind an old, ugly wooden fence, with its eye-splitting black and orange NO TRESPASSING sign.
The house was narrow, constricting, its windows yellowed from their years. It is made almost entirely of stone, greasy and slimy to touch. I have trouble imagining who or what lived in this house.
This place was ground zero for what was our family. I consider myself lucky, I only lived there a few days of the week, but it pushed me. It told me in plenty that my happy little life at my old perfect little home in Littleton wasn’t the only life to live.
The house rots:old and musty; everything that we do involves a rag to clean the dust. It wears on us to live in this place; we work and work at something that we hate. I remember working on this dilapidated house for hours on end, which seemed rather futile.
We started with the landscaping. We mowed the entire lot, picked up old rubble, and destroyed the old dungeon of a shed. I can still feel the blisters on my hands from the old wood rake I used to collect the leaves under the gnarled trees. Then we moved inside. We tried our best to make the place comfortable to live in.
We had no TV, no phone, and I had no bedroom. My dad’s bedroom contains a bed he had gotten from a friend, two saw horses and a piece of drywall to hold up a Stone Age computer we had gotten from my uncle. My sister, by law, had to have the one bedroom. It too, exists plain and simple: a bed, bookshelf, and her belongings in her duffle bag. All of this must have proved better then my room: a couch with a pullout bed.
By the time we had lived in the house for two months, we carpeted the plywood floors, retiled the front entrance, and done away with a good amount of the junk yard's rubble
I knew that we wouldn't live here long. I did not feel welcomed at this house. I did not feel happy, content, or peaceful. Not in these days, at least.
I can remember when this place was welcoming:
The breeze would run through already age-old lace curtains, handed down generation from generation. The dull drone of some far off tree crackles and snaps under the weight of its old age, reminiscent of the cynical old man in his giant easy chair. The old woman at the stove works at a fresh batch of whatever mix it will be today. The breeze tells us that there is nothing to worry about, that the stress of one’s everyday life is far away, slowly dying with every turn of the old woman’s mixing spoon. It smells fresh, like it has just rained, even though one can feel the pleasing burn of the sun when he steps out on the red oak porch. The clothes line that once held the burden of a real household now swings in the breeze, enjoying his retirement from much heavier times. This house, painted so neutral: white and light yellow splinters in the summer sun, and cracks in the bitter winter’s wrath.

But it will never be like this again. This place can no longer resemble what it once was. Such dramatic change has worn down our old root, our old sense of home. Instead of sucking in the joy of a home, we now take each breath because that is what will get us to tomorrow. Instead of keeping our heads up, we look down and soak ourselves in a painful bath of the present.

Roots were particularly hard to remove from the yard. It was easy to cut down the tree in the yellow grass. Back and forth, back and forth, cutting into the tree will every pass until she finally falls, giving up. But when I move to the roots they won’t budge. I attack them, even loathe them, but I cannot change them. They won’t break.
This house used to be a place that embodied peace, and now I am in the yard attacking the place. Cutting corners, hurting myself, and I take each breath, one by one.
Why would I work for something that I despised so much? Because I had nothing else to do but work. I couldn't sit down and face the fact that my parents had finally gone their separate ways. So I worked, toiled on this place; I wouldn't sit down in my misery. At least when I worked I had something to think about.
It reminds me of the long, wearing distance runs we embark on in the cross country season. The runner cannot think of his pain and inconvenience, but he must picture the finish line, and put one foot in front of the other. How do you keep going through these rough patches? You channel the pain. You take the anger, frustration, and pity and release it upon the very thing that cannot change and somehow, things change.
People can change. I know it now. Places can change. I’ve seen it at First Avenue. When we drop our bags in the front walkway, we change it, and so it changes us. Can we go back? No, probably not. But we can overcome obastacles.
I figure that we toiled on this house because we couldn’t face it. We couldn’t sit around and complain about anything: the divorce, the house, anything, because we only had each other from now on. We worked not because we needed to, but because even though we were down, we wouldn’t let ourselves lay face down in the dirt. We picked ourselves up, brushed off, and eventually moved on. I can look back on it and say that I learned how to get through a tough time. It’s not about enduring; it’s about changing what was around us, learning the old history and making progress.
You channel the pain. You take the anger, frustration, and pity and release it upon the very thing that cannot change and somehow something changes. Maybe it isn’t the roots, but the tree falls fast.
Suddenly, it doesn't matter that I am on a couch instead of in a comfortable bedroom, and I can sleep.

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Works Cited

Flickr.com. 21 Oct. 2007. 13 Feb. 2009 <http://flickr.com/photos/7198892@N06/1675339935>. Youtube.com. 25 July 2008. 13 Feb. 2009 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idd_92ajjwY.