Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Very, Very, Very Fine House

The first sound on the periphery of my awareness was the fussing of a rooster.  Its preemptive squawking was accompanied by a chorus of clucking and beating wings.  I opened my eyes.  The assaulting sun pin pricked a diamond pattern through the filtering mat wall at the foot of my bed.  Three feet from me, my sister was a huddled mound on her loft bed.

The bedroom we shared, a scant 9 feet by 9 feet square, also doubled as our home's library and pantry.  Anna and I each had our own loft bed, built three feet apart into opposite walls and elevated to fit a desk and a storage crate under each, with a foam sleeping pad on top.  This was where I did my school work, and kept my clothing and personal things.  I had glued some little erasers a supporter in the States had sent us in a row along the 2x4 beam that served double duty as wall frame and shelf for my desk.  The little rubber rainbows and unicorns kept me company as I worked on long division and adverbs.

The wall that didn't have my sister's and my beds against it was delegated to our significant book collection. Picture books filled the bottom three lumber shelves, followed by four shelves of paperback novels.  This treasure trove was right at the foot of my bed.  Every morning, L.M. Montgomery, Madeline L'Engle, Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Daniel Defoe, Jean Craighead George, Gary Paulson, along with scores of others, would greet me like so many old friends.  I considered myself lucky to have 'the bed with the library'.  My sister's ladder abutted the food safe, a screened box where we kept our leftovers.

The interior mat walls in our house rose only 9 feet, with boxes of canned goods and supplies stacked on the shelves running across the top of them.  Here was everything we would need over the six months we stayed in the village.  As the months drew out, the piles of boxes next to the roof dwindled, until finally the ship arrived at the island to carry us back to Honiara.  Christmas and birthday presents were hid here too, bought months in advance and smuggled out to the village.  For this reason, we weren't allowed to climb up to the rafters and explore the shelves.

Sometimes we did, anyway.  We had a game resembling 'tag', where we would chase each other around the house.  The only rule was you couldn't put your feet on the floor.  Up and over walls we would climb, spider-walking from one beam to the next.  The entire house would sway on its stilts until Mom got back from the beach and put a stop to it.

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