Thursday, November 08, 2007


One thing about money and work. It brought you into contact with a lot of people you didn't really know and more than that it took you into their homes. Not all the way into their homes, just into their homes. Usually just inside the front door. From there you got a glimpse of their lives. Just that. A glimpse.
Wenonah was made up primarily of Victorian homes and a scattering of homes built in the 1920's. On the northeast corner there was a development built in the fifties. But for the most part we're talking homes with porches and entry halls. What someone in a Jane Austen novel might call a parlor. My own house had it's front hallway, complete with a small bathroom which we called the powder room, and the stairs leading to the bedrooms. Just to the right was a living room with a bay window. When people came to visit they entered by this front door and hallway. When friends came they went to the back or side door.
So it was with me and my friends when we went to earn money. When we knew the people, or more precisely, their children we entered the home from the side door or the back door. In Terry Fleming's case the side door was the garage door, for instance. When we didn't we knocked or rang the bell at the front door. Some period of time would elapse and an adult would open the door a bit, perhaps a foot or two, and say hello and ask us what we wanted. We wanted work. But in asking we were also asking to look inside and look we would.
We'd peer around the adult for the secrets within. Most of the homes were a little dark, maybe that was just a trick of the light, or maybe it was a natural inclination to save electricity on the part of older people. The furniture might be old or modern. You almost never heard a tv in the background. There might be a dog barking at their side. The Marx's dog once leapt up and bit me on the elbow. Hard. Don't come in too far. You never know.
Some of the adults were well dressed, some disheveled. Sometimes a man would answer the door on a weekday and that was strange. Sometimes they would hide from you. Especially if you were collecting for the newspaper. You could hear them inside and you would ring and ring yet no adult would come to the door. That was an interesting lesson.
Sometimes a beautiful young wife or stunning teenage girl would answer the door. That was scary and wonderful all at once. The smells that came from inside were also always different. Musky, perfumes, lavender, pinesol, all the different smells of a house. All just drifting two or three feet away, just past a hulking adult figure asking what did you want after all. What indeed?
Why was the door not opened wide? Why wasn't it flung open? Why didn't they ask us in for a coke or a little talk? It was the rare person who would do such a thing. They had something we wanted and they weren't going to give it up easily. We would have to work hard for what we wanted. To get beyond that door and have them open their wallet or purse and pull out a few crumpled singles for our little hands. Maybe they thought we wanted something more. Maybe we did.

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