Mount Penn Pennsylvania. If you were attempting to describe to your Albanian pen pal, what the definition of ‘suburbia’ is, Mount Penn would be a good place to begin. By population, we were not even a town. If I’m not mistaken we were a borough and only because Pennsylvania does not formally recognize communes.
Mt Penn is the kind of place where a quick walk around the block with your dog ended up being a two hour affair as you talked to someone every other brick two story with a well manicured lawn. It’s the kind of place where the speed limit rarely breaks 35. You had the same teachers in school your parents did. The type of borough where ‘you know who did you know what with you know who’. Yes they did.
We have two main arteries in Mt Penn, Carsonia avenue and Perkiomen avenue. More like side streets in a big city than true avenues, these two suburban superhighways run parallel to one another. One of the connecting arteries for the two roads is Endlich avenue. Endlich can take you from Le Petite Artist on Carsonia right to Advanced Auto on Perkiomen while bypassing three traffic lights and a school crossing. That should give you a good understanding of just how important an avenue like Endlich is to the residents of Mt Penn.
The reason Endlich has such profound meaning to me(with no disrespect to Le Petite Artist), I used to live on the avenue. 234 Endlich to be precise. 234 Endlich sits on the corner of Endlich and Philmay Terrace(where else but suburbia, and maybe Desperate Housewives, can you get street names like that?). A single two story brick and faded white aluminum sided house with a grey shingled roof stood that has proudly occupied the area since the 1950’s.
To look at it now, 234 is a shell of her former glory. Where the Lawn Boy mowed grass used to be, now grows something very akin to wild wheat on the Serenghetti. The proud bushes lining the house have buckled under their own mass. The shed(which may have well been a literal extension of myself…it’s a guy thing. Tools, shelving, the smell of old grass clippings delicately mixed with gasoline. Think of it like the shoe department of your favorite store if you’re having trouble) has been graffitied like the side of a bridge and the door hangs by broken hinges. The house should have a ‘Falling Rocks’ traffic sign, as the air conditioning units, left in windows since my name was on the mortgage, teeter on sills waiting for a stiff wind to finally release them. The aluminum has faded more. The front porch and it’s rotted joists are ready to make a Mariah Carey on TRL type collapse.
So as I drive by my former house(of course I drive by it, I only moved down Perkiomen a few miles)and see the ‘Public Auction’ and ‘Eviction” notice signs on the front door, I can’t help remember when 234 Endlich wasn’t just a house but when it was my home.
From the time we took our first walk through with Lydia, our agent, to time spent jackhammering the concrete floor in the bathroom(another story for another time), ripping out walls, putting new walls up, painting the walls(with colors both my wife and I picked out and yet three hours in and 3/4 of the way finished with the living room, she decides she doesn’t like the color), hanging wall paper and laying flooring, 234 Endlich was never just a house.
We started our lives there. I learned lefty loosey righty tighty does not apply towards plumbing jobs. I patched a leaking roof. I had Rotor Rooter snake my drain at $65 an hour on a Sunday afternoon(imagine a pool of fecal matter in your basement coming to high tide as your wife is showering and you’re trying to locate your rotary saw). My dad put together a tool box with specific tools for specific jobs for me to have(ironically, I have used all of those tools for all of those jobs). He also gave me my first roll of duct tape(it’s like a rite of passage in my family). I put together more pieces of furniture from Kohl’s than any man should(I hate those damn tiny nails for the cardboard backings). The corner of the living room behind the front door was where we put our first Christmas tree. While watching ‘Training Day’ on our Unclaimed Freight sofa Alicia’s water broke. Both of our daughters slept in cribs there. Hannah peed all over me as I fed her a bottle on the Easy Glide chair(I suppose if I would have remembered to put a diaper on our 6 month old I may not have had a wet leg). Emma peed all over me while I fed her a bottle(okay, I forgot again). We had birthday parties, anniversaries, and holidays even though we didn’t have the room. We ran three air conditioners constantly in the summertime(and they did their job admirably until you woke up in the middle of the night and left the room to go the bathroom and walked down the incinerator that was the hallway). We weathered a three day winter blackout that unfortunately claimed the lives of our Beta Fish(I knew we forgot something when we went to stay with my in-laws). We fell victim to robbery. We got an alarm system(which went off on three separate occasions and never because of another robbery).
For 7 years, 234 Endlich was more than a house. Even though we out grew it and sprinted from it when we left, it was our home. And in some cosmic sort of way, it’s what allows it to continue to be our home(kind of like Li Mu-bai and the Green Destiny) .
I look at it now and see all the work, time, laughter, and tears covered by neglect and eviction notices. I feel bad for 234. It was a great house that became an even better home. I only wish the people who moved in after we moved out would have felt the same way we did of the single family brick home with faded white aluminum siding and grey shingled roof sitting in Mt Penn on 234 Endlich Avenue.
- Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for, I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country (and bald...and cranky...and out of shape...in the service of being a parent) - George Washington
Seek and Ye Might Just Find