I don't have any memories from the first house I lived in, on Melrose Court in Iowa City. My earliest memories involve Koser Avenue, and my Koser friends, my grandma Phyllis, my grandparents from Bettendorf, and of course, my mom and Mike Maloney.
I had a good childhood, and a mostly normal one. I've heard stories about being a toddler and sitting on Mike's lap eating apple slices and watching our fish swim around the tank. I have heard the story of the first time I was allowed to eat popcorn dozens of times (if I wanted to eat like a big girl I had to throw away my pacifier in to the garbage can first, which I did and never looked back). (I still love popcorn).
I remember being eight or nine or ten and being at the park at Roosevelt and playing on the playground until someone found a real-life gun in the Roosevelt Ravine. We were with the Ponterelli's, and I can visualize Liz Loeb matter-of-factly picking it up, holding it above her head and marching it down the street to a police officer.
I remember my uncle Steve parking at our house for Hawkeye games, and how he always brought us snacks and bought brownies from our stand.
I remember going to the Roosevelt kickball court to play kickball with my grandparents when my mom was out of town.
I remember that the police officers knew our names, and how we called him Officer Friendly. I remember how he used to drive past our house, checking on us, making sure Mike wasn't causing us trouble.
I remember Matt's birthday party (or maybe it was Joe's) where we had a pinata tied up to the south tree in our front yard and one of them hitting it square on, spraying candy across the whole yard.
I remember our house, and how much I loved it, with the creeky wood floors and the shutters, and the computer upstairs where I first tasted the internet.
I remember the backyard and how I hated going barefoot because I was convinced a snake was going to slither across my feet. I remember the huge row of peonies and the lilac bushes and the flowers around the two big trees in the front yard.
I remember the front porch, and sitting out on the stoop with Mike Maloney.
I remember the basement, where we built forts and rollerbladed in the winter and learned all the words to Paula Abdul's greatest hits.
I remember my bedroom, with the pink and green flowers stenciled all across the top. I remember my bed, with the reading light where I first fell in love with reading, and would stay up late until my mom commanded me to turn off the light.
I remember the 4th of July, going to Coralville with my brothers and cousins Christine, Laura and Jen, and lighting "snakes" and laying on blankets by the lake watching the fireworks. (Early cousinfriend years).
I remember my grandma Phyllis' house, with the molasses cookies and the river in her backyard. I remember her cranapple tree in the front yard, and the big yard next door that we always called the "vacant lot". I remember driving the "double dips" street near her house, and I remember the park a few blocks away where my brothers played baseball and I ate yellow popsicles.
I remember the Willow Tree park where I had soccer, and when Shawn Steil tried to drive me home from practice, how I wouldn't go with him until he called my mom to find out what our secret code word was. I remember that our secret code word was chocolate.
I remember our backyard, with the garden that had rhubarb and lettuce and carrots. I remember the clothesline, and the berry-patch behind the garage. I remember the compost pile and the apple tree that we beat up by climbing every summer.
When I think back to my childhood, Mike's bad behavior is a footnote, a paragraph. The rest of the story is loud and carefree... and joyful. Riding bikes up to Sunset and then whizzing down around the block. Playing at Marjorie's house with the neighborhood kids. Sparklers on the 4th of July and birthday parties and running through the sprinkler on a hot July day. The Melrose Market. Parking cars on Hawkeye Football game days. Sledding on the hill by the yellow house. Piano lessons at Nadine's. The embroidered toothfairy pillow. Santa coming early. The foosball table. St. Thomas Moore.
All of that and more, I owe to the biggest influence in my life, my mom, the birthday girl.