As a child, I lived in a house on Bare Street. A house that for some ungodly reason did not explode from the pressure that was created as two broken families moved in together. A baby blue house that had white brick infused at its base with warm reds—blood from the previous stepchildren that must have lived there. Or so my young inventive mind thought. Six of us were entering into a world where the word, step, now defined our existence. I’m not sure if I fully understood that moving into a new home with new people meant that I had a new father, a new sister, and a new brother. It was quite unfortunate though, that house. Its design was eerie similar to the dollhouse I lugged around. Comparing the two must have molded my perception of the house being used as a playground.
All I really knew was that the territory was unfamiliar and it stunk. My stepfather had a mean voice and seemed to be not okay with any movement or sound I made. My new siblings made too much sound. Those two were loud and obnoxious. My sister on the other hand was much less concerned about our new life; she had more important teenage issues to worry about, such as JNCO jeans and the song, Strawberry Wine. There has got to be some sort of irony that has slipped through the cracks as my sister now harps on her own stepson, for wearing those baggy and awkward jeans.
We didn’t like each other. They had dark hair and we were blonde. They didn’t go fishing and camping like we did. They read books and watched TV. My stepbrother even ran around the house commentating fake sports broadcasts with the VHS recorder. Then came the day, that instigated all the other days. The four of us kids found an action that seemed to be more than just hot air—burping. Burping at the dinner table sent you straight to the other dining room in a wooden chair that faced the corner of the two walls. If a second child burped, he or she was sent to the middle of the stairs to sit until dinner had ceased. If a third, he or she was sent to the blue couch living room to stare at the wall. And, If a forth, dinner ended.
The objective at the dinner table turned rather strategic. It was important that you sat down and started eating right away; you didn’t want to starve to death. The key was to be the first child to burp. This meant you were sent to the other dining room. Any burps after that, resulted in the other not-so-amusing places. Yes, stationed at the other places you could make funny noises and whisper naughty words to each other across the hallways but the real deal was the first burp destination. Here, in the other dining room rested the 4000 B.C. phenomenon introduced by the Egyptians in the form of papyrus. One could argue the Chinese invented the stuff, as they glued rice paper onto their walls as early as 200 B.C. But, our phenomenon was definitely from the 70s. Those walls gave kids like us our first opportunity to claim we were suffering from anxiety. I believe the first child to stick their fingernail into the wallpaper and make an impression is locked away safe in our hearts. Because as time went on, the wallpaper, at eye level, for a child sitting in a wooden chair facing it, slowly disappeared. One by one, we worked to destroy that uneasy paper. At the time, we may have felt we were doing our parents a favor. As the designated other dining room, that was only to be used on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, the room was rarely viewed by the newly joined parents. Plus, the shadows from the curtains and window bought us kids some time.
It wouldn’t be until a holiday. A day where the sun just so happened not to shine, and we just so happened to all be under one roof at one time. Four kids who all disliked each other, sitting on one couch, staring up at two very upset adults. It was at that moment, we realized what we had done. As a team, we worked together day by day. We took risks; we went hungry, all with a collective purpose, all in it for one goal. If we could succeed at getting in trouble together then we had surely succeeded in having fun together. Needless to say, the wallpaper on Bare Street brought our family together. My parents didn’t replace the wallpaper until each of us entered high school. It stood against that wall, mutilated. If you kept a close eye on it, you would witness that each day less remained. That wallpaper represented something bigger than us as individuals or individual families. It represented us as a team—working together for one common goal.