Confining, yet cozy. Wide open, and breathtaking.

Inside, standing on my bed’s headboard, looking out the window.

Or outside, watching as the streetlights hummed in crackling blue-white light, then flickered on for the night.

In 2006 I worked as sound guy on a short film submitted to the 48-Hour Film Festival. We made a base camp at a house north of Minneapolis—a house that, from the inside, stepped right out of 1973: Shag carpeting, batik on the walls, framed photos of the family that lived there and seemed like time had stood still when Nixon announced that Haldeman and Erlichman had resigned as White House aides.

It zipped me back to a time I’d lived through but completely forgotten: muted earthtones, floral prints, Jello 1-2-3, and ABBA funkin’ it up to the sound of “Hey Hey Helen.”

So, lately I’ve been thinking about how physical spaces have affected me growing up.

The earliest memory is probably of me and Brian rooting around at the base of clothing racks of some department store in Indianapolis, circa 1964. We loved hiding in those dark cozy nests of coats and dresses, and surprising shoppers who didn’t realize a child was lurking at their feet.

Colorful, busy places: like the soda fountain at Woolworth’s, probably around the same time, either in Indianapolis or the department store in downtown Greensburg with Grandma, with its multicolored soda machines burbling away, gleaming green and silver milkshake blenders, or the smell of roasting hot dogs on a rotisserie. When I was a kid, it was all a source of wonder.

Outdoor places: a hot late summer day on some back-country road, picking up scrap materials with Dad, walking that dusty road with its tall grass and chirping crickets. Or a full moon rising over the concrete slabs of the town gravel pits in Minnesota, where high-school buddy Don and I used to go and imagine that if we merely acknowledged the solemnity of the place, it might foretell lucky things just around the corner. Or some sort of pseudo-mystical stuff like that.

Like those “magical kingdoms of memory” or the secret places where kids build forts or tree houses or perches on the embankment from which to engage in mud-ball wars, there were books, stories, half-remembered dreams. Whether images from a history of U.S. presidents, or the Golden Book Encyclopedia, or a Time-Life book on the Celts—with its images of dark, mysterious forests and sweeping plains upon which arose Stonehenge—when my imagination was afire, nothing could distract me.

In Indianapolis, we lived just two blocks from Broad Ripple Park, where the folks used to take us for picnics or just to play. Years later I came across this image that immediately reminded me of the park’s trees, which, in the distance, resonated in my memory just as I’d seen them in the mid 1960s. 

So we circle back and it’s 1973, and I’m standing on that bed, cranking the window open, sniffing the breeze and watching life go by.

Wondering when I’d grow up.

Wondering what the future would bring.

In that space, that bedroom, with its loud “signpost” wallpaper, low-pile wall-to-wall carpeting, red, white and blue cotton chenille bedspread, my clock radio out of which poured Rob Sherwood on KDWB, my lamp, my manual typewriter, my bookshelf…

In that space I was becoming what I am now.

~ by completelyinthedark on April 10, 2011.

One Response to “Spaces”

  1. Reblogged this on Completely in the Dark and commented:

    Happy 4th of July. An oldie but a goodie. New stories next week. Enjoy your independence! Peace, love and joy, Mike


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