The the carpet in my house looked something like Afghanistan. Its natural color was brown so I’m sure that helped to mask some of the dirt. But, over time, the stains from dogs with no bathroom skills and kids with no eating skills proved to be too much. Growing up, I was ashamed of the carpet in my house.
The furniture wasn’t any better. It was pieced together as people gave us their old stuff.
Things got worse when you walked outside.
For a lot of years the garage door had several panels missing from where I drove my big wheel into it. And then there was the paint. To save a few dollars we decided to paint our house ourselves. It was tragic. I don’t know if purple is the right word. I don’t even know if there is a word to describe that color. On a positive note, I think John Mellencamp wrote a song about our house.
I grew up in a house with bad carpet, questionable furniture and a paint job that inspired a John Mellencamp song. Or the creation of Barney and Friends.
Like I said, I was ashamed.
But there was something funny about that house.
All of my friends hung out there. All the time.
Together, we saw Mike Tyson become a household name. We watched the Braves lose hundreds of games. And we watched a lot of movies. I think I saw Airplane! 37 times before I turned 14.
But why? Why would other teenagers willingly spend almost every weekend in a purple(ish) house with donated furniture and carpet that looked like the scene of a homicide investigation?
I can only think of one reason.
She was no master chef. Most of her meals involved can openers and Hamburger Helper boxes. But she was a master servant. She put two cups of sugar in her sweet tea and made it available to everyone. Today, a parent would be arrested for adding two cups of sugar to a gallon of tea. But we loved it. And there was always enough.
Our TV wasn’t anything special. There was no man cave with a 52-inch screen mounted on the wall. It was just a room. But it was a room where guys felt comfortable.
My mom managed to be around without ever hovering. She stuck her head in to see if we needed anything but never crowded us. Most nights, once she knew we had everything we needed, she went back to her room and fell asleep while we watched a young kid named Tyson knock people out. And she slept peacefully, knowing where her son was and who he was with.
Last weekend my son had a friend over. They didn’t watch Tyson fights or Airplane! 37 times. Maybe next weekend. I mostly left the boys alone while they played. Their voices and laughter made a beautiful soundtrack. A soundtrack that reminded me of the movie I lived in with all of my friends in that old house with the bad carpet. And I thought about the person that kept them coming back.
Some of the best years of my life were spent in that living room. But those moments never last.
Tyson got knocked out and the jokes from Airplane! started to get old. Eventually, all of my friends spread out. One went to Europe. Most of the rest of us just moved to another town or went to college. We got married and started having kids and taking our stories in different directions. Now our late nights end at 10:00 and involve diapers or soccer practice.
It seems like decades since those weekends spent watching boxing and movies with my friends. It has been decades.
But not too long ago, we did have one last good time. There was no TV but there was plenty of sweet tea. We sat around a kitchen table in a different house and spent hours sharing stories. Most of those stories had something to do with the house I grew up in. The house we all grew up in.
A lot of those stories were about my mom.
Funerals have a way of bringing friends back together for one more good time.
I’m really glad that I grew up with those guys. I’m glad that they weren’t ashamed to come to a purple house with crime scene carpet. Those guys are a part of who I am. I’ll see one of them this weekend and I can’t wait.
I just hope that my sons have friends like the ones I had.
And I hope that I can make those friends feel at home.
Like Brenda Sanders did.