Day 26: The Sunroom

June 14th, 2015

The house where I grew up in Ashfield, MA

The house where I grew up in Ashfield, MA

I’m taking part in a 30-day writing experiment. See Kale & Cigarettes for details and the Facebook Group to read stories by other 500-words-ers. 

When they built the house, I was a baby and my parents were in their very early twenties. Without the benefit of an architect, a contractor, or any other real professional, my carpenter father and my waitress mother designed and built a funky two-story wooden home in rural Ashfield, Massachusetts. 

The land lay at the end of an unpaved, dead-end dirt road in a hill town populated mostly with dairy farms. Right on the fringes of the Berkshires, in the early ’70s Ashfield’s farm culture was slowly being taken over by hippies migrating west from the Boston suburbs, acting out the great hippie dream of settling down on a slice of land, far away from the man.

There was a swamp across the street filled with pussy willows, cat tails, and beavers, and a long stretch of classic, Emersonesque New England woods surrounding the land. To this day, if you wander through these woods, you’ll see ruins of old stone fences from the pioneer days and sugar buckets here and there.

They built the house primarily of salvaged wood from tobacco barns torn down in nearby Hatfield, Massachusetts. My grandmother and her brothers and sisters grew up working in these tobacco fields, and so did German refugees during World War II—interesting historical factoid I just found out. The unfinished beams this tobacco-barn wood provided gave the house a rustic look and a dusty disposition.

At the sunny front end of the house, they built an octagonal room full of floor-to-ceiling windows, which they called the “sunroom.” When I was growing up, it was empty of furniture save a few funky futon mattresses and pillows and the record player. This is where we played Scrabble, lay around on the braided rug with the dogs and cats, built wooden train sets and Lego superstructures, and watched Sesame Street and The Electric Company on our black and white TV. It’s where we entertained Gramma when she came to visit, and where we listened to Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall and Thriller again and again and again.

The sunroom had its heyday in ’70s, when record albums were an activity, not a background noise. The extent of the multitasking one might engage in while listening to Thriller would be to simultaneously read the album jacket.

As the years wore on, the room began to attract actual furniture and bigger TVs. Curtains were put up and plants began to die quietly in corners. My mother still lives in this house, alone, forty-some-odds years later, but it’s no longer fair to call it the “sunroom.”

Thanks to the curtains, the sun is gone. The kids are gone; the dogs and cats are gone; the Gramma is gone. Even Michael Jackson is gone.

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2 Responses to “Day 26: The Sunroom”

  1. Tom says:

    Ah, those simple days of laying around listening to records without distraction, and creating worlds out of the images on the album cover. Or reading the lyrics, and trying to figure out the meanings behind the verses, which sometimes were clear as day and sometimes an enigma. Thanks for reminding me of doing that. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon or

  2. stacie says:

    I inherited my parents turntable in 1975. Listening to a range of music to include Rod Stewart (when the house was empty the volumn up) Frank Sinatra and Natalie Cole. I could never seem to keep the needle free enough from dust, or the albums clean enough, so that static sound was always heard….I look back and think how all kids no matter their age should know what it is like to listen to a record on a turn table…that sound that comes through the speakers in addition to the music. How technology has changed since i was young…
    Thank you Joslyn for trigger those memories.

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