Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

My old room

I talked to my mom the other day, and she said she’s keeping the old house, but she’s renting it out now. Some background: the 5 of us moved there in 1978. My parents divorced in 1984, and my mom bought my dad’s share of the house. I moved out in 1989, back in 1990, out in 1991, and back for the summer of 1993. My mom moved in with her new husband in early 1996, and my sisters both left this year.

It’s strange for me to think about that place. I always expect to see my Camaro in the driveway, leaking oil, and my life’s possessions stuffed in my wood-paneled room in the basement, the room I helped build. Now I usually visit in a brand new rental car, and last xmas, my room was a storage space for sewing machines and stuff from my grandpa’s estate. No more iron maiden posters, no more model airplanes, no more netting from the ceiling hiding the joists and air conditining ducts.

The room was 11 by 11, more or less. I built two walls in an L-shape in the corner of the basement, which meant I had two walls of fake paneling, one of poured cement, and one that was half-cement and half-the backside of the livingroom’s walls. There was no ceiling. The carpet varied, because I was always getting leftovers from my mom’s frequent redecorating projects in the rest of the house. I didn’t get a door for about a year. I didn’t even have paneling for a summer – I had to build the place, or share a room with my stepbrother. Easy choice.

During high school, I decorated with stuff I stole from the performing arts center. I had part of a tree from Brigadoon – chickenwire, plywood, and plaster – covering the back of the livingroom wall. Shelves covered two walls, lined with old model airplanes. Iron Maiden’s Aces High poster covered the cement wall. The netting on the ceiling. I rearranged everything when I got a real stereo in my senior year. On one of the walls, I taped up every award, scholarship, and college acceptance during my senior year.

I recently found a videotape that was shot by my old friend Joe Gellert, with me and Derik Rinehart acting like idiots in my house. My room still had the Iron Maiden poster. My Camaro was in the garage. I weighed about 100 pounds. The whole thing freaked me out, like a time machine except I couldn’t grab the camera from Joe and pan around and see all of the little things I wanted to see.

When I left for college, I left behind all of the furniture. Good thing – I was back a year later, with a bunch of new CDs, and a woman who was living with me. The room overflowed with two people’s stuff until she found her own apartment. For a year, it felt like high school again, except I had more porno and Ray Miller’s fender stack was in the middle of my room for a while.

I moved back to IU, took the porno, and left the furniture. (my car broke down on the way there, too). The room stayed in the same condition for my occasional visits back.

The last girlfriend to visit my mom’s house was Johanna, for Thanksgiving 1991. My first four girlfriends all visited my house. One pretty much lived there for six months. I discontinued the visit policy after Johanna.

The xmas of 1991 was my last major holiday stay at the house. I think I was there for almost two weeks, and it drove me fucking insane. I brought with me the earliest permutation of my IBM XT clone, which was just a bunch of parts thrown in a metal case. I spent the whole break writing an adventure game in modula 2 and trying to seduce my backup plan from Johanna. Neither projects were completed.

I moved all of my stuff back in the basement in 1993, in two or three trips. I started buying furniture like mad to fill up my future apartment with Andrew in Colonial Crest. I also ran my zine from the room. I had a giant L-shaped computer desk, 6 floor lamps, about 500 CDs, and two months of unanswered main in that tiny room. I was working two jobs and wishing Tanya was back. And I didn’t have a car. Thank Satan for Ray Miller, my errand-boy of the summer.

I loaded that U-haul full of a lot of stuff when I left, only leaving behind my bed (I bought a new one). Right before I went to pick up the truck, I went to visit my dad, uncle, and grandma. It was the last time I saw my grandma – she had a heart attack a few months later. When I came home for the funeral, my room only had a bed, and a stack of xmas cards I opened 2 years before.

The room stayed in minimalist state until 1995, when I moved to Seattle. I showed up with the one way uhaul, and filled it with a bunch of stuff, including the bed, when I left. I came back that xmas and slept in the guest bedroom – same in 1996. The shower felt horrible, and the basement looked alien. Each visit, I’ve picked around, trying to find little things to bring back that I know will get destroyed otherwise. I found my Star Wars figures, some C-64 games, ad a couple of books. But now, it will all be gone.

The house will still be there, which is strange. I don’t know if it will be rented out, or if I’ll be able to pick through the rubble. I’m hoping the latter, just to get a good look at it. I never thought the damn thing would give me such a sense of nostalgia – I worked so long to escape it. Oh well.