She told me to put my middle name and street name together and it would be my stripper name. Guy Charlton didn’t sound that sexy or exotic to me, but that’s the kind of thing we’d giggle over, along with articles in Cosmopolitan magazine, during sleepovers.
I didn’t really like living on Charlton Road at first. There was no one to play with except my little sisters. The houses were so far apart that the only time we went to the neighbors was for trick-or-treating. Our house was closer to the road than the others around us, and we couldn’t pay landscapers to mow the acre or two of uneven lawn.
I didn’t have to share my bedroom though, and I even got the biggest one, over my sisters’ protests, because I’m the oldest. None of us had to share rooms here, which is lucky because we almost killed each other over who go to use the computer after school. We were fortunate to at least finally have one; I thought I had complained enough about having to go to my friends’ houses to type up reports, but really my parents had gone without in order to be able to afford it.
I could appreciate home more when I had to make one of my own with my boyfriend and our two kittens. It didn’t really feel strange until my first Christmas that didn’t involve opening stockings with my sisters at 6 am, and breakfast of Belgian waffles while watching the TBS marathon of “A Christmas Story.”
The bush isn’t hiding the missing siding, or hanging over the crumbling cement walkway anymore. My dad took it down, and never got to the second one. I liked those bushes lit up at Christmas; they looked just like giant candy gumdrops flanking the front door.
Sometimes I visit and stay the night if I have to work really early the next morning because their house is closer than mine to the store by an hour. I breathe cigarette smoke lingering on the couch pillows, and count the click click clicks of the clock hands in the adjoining room. In the morning, the water pressure in the shower makes washing the conditioner out feel like a marathon race I might never win before the cold sets in.
Dad started to take apart the bathroom and even had a whirl-pool tub out on the back porch, but he’ll never get to install it. My parents had big plans for a master suite. A few times I’ve been allowed to go to Dad’s job sites and I’ve seen the caliber of work my dad has done in other people’s houses, but ours always came last. He used the rich people’s castaways, or else stowed them in the garage with the intent to.
They have bankruptcy court tomorrow. Over the last few months, my mom has pruned their belongings down to a room full of cardboard boxes stacked like soldiers waiting to board the moving van. They knew it was coming; dad’s self-employed in a recession and they haven’t made the mortgage in longer than they’d care to admit.
In the coming weeks our family’s house, my childhood home, on Charlton Road will be on some bank’s foreclosure list. I will have to assume a new last name for my stripper identity. Somehow, Fifth Ave doesn’t work either. I never thought I'd be cut out for that profession anyway.