Our House In Morea


Ma, though reserved and always cautious, was aware of the horror stories but not one to dwell on speculation and superstition. Grandmother, on the other hand, though tiny In stature was fearless. Her emotional strength was constantly nurtured by the large black prayer book which she had carried with her from Poland and which contained a prayer for every occasion. Within a week she laid claim to the house by establishing her own small altar in the far corner of the living room. On it she had placed a cross, a statue of the Virgin Mary, holy water, a candle and her big black prayer book. Let all demons beware' !!

It was 1912. Ma was expecting Tommy at the time. She and Grandmother wasted no time in cleaning the boxy, row house. With all of us helping it took several days just to clear the house and barn of the old, foul smelling, and bug-infested hay. Pa and Felix white washed the walls, while my other brothers helped scrub floors and windows.

Our house was rectangular in shape both only two rooms downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. In addition there was an attic with a low ceiling and a cold ground basement. There were no bathrooms.

On the lower floor, the front room faced Main Street and was our living room. The back room was the kitchen.

Two flights of stairs joined the upper floor with the lower floor the one flight leading to the living room and the second to the kitchen. This circuitous arrangement delighted the younger children and was a perfect setting for ''If -for Chasy''. I believe this to be a contraction for "Your it you chasing'' - a game in which one was chasing or being chased up one flight of stairs and down the other.

Our happy squeals were often mixed with screams as the pursuers became the pursued and vice versa. This unleashed a flurry of energy and voices that would drive my poor mother crazy. She finally solved the problem by blocking off the stairs leading to the kitchen. This also solved another problem, her need for extra storage and closet space.

The kitchen was the central point of our home. The furnishings consisted of an ice box, a heavy cast iron coal-burning stove, and a large picnic like table with one long bench and six mismatched wooden chairs. It also contained a smaller table and an open cupboard for our mostly mismatched dishes -some of which my brothers won tossing pennies at carnivals.

Our appetites were constantly stimulated by tantalizing aromas, and satisfied by Ma's cooking.

At meat time, Ma and Pa sat at either end of the table with the younger kids sitting on the bench abutting the wall. Our older siblings sat in chairs on the opposite side along with grandmother.

Between meals, the table always contained homemade bread, peanut butter and jellies.

The table was also the setting for more serious family discussions, homework, sewing and occasional gossip.

The underside of the table doubled (parents permitting) as a play house, fort or other adventure driven habitat. It also served as an escape route for my younger siblings when they finished their meals. Even though there were only two bedrooms in the house, this was not considered a problem. Some families even had boarders! Ma and Pa slept in one room and shared it with the newest baby. There were three beds in the second bedroom. Margaret Dorothy, and grandmother slept in one bed, Felix and Marty in the second.

Mike had the privilege of not having to share his bed. At night we all had to share the pail with the lid that was kept in a neutral zone. Initially I was assigned to sleep in the attic with Mary since we were the oldest of the girls. I should have been delighted with the additional privacy and space but I wasn't. I was constantly haunted by the horror stories associated with the house. I always felt like someone was following me as I climbed the pull-down stairs leading to the attic. Every noise was frightening and I couldn't sleep.

Too scared to stay there, I gladly changed places with my sister Margaret. Even then I feared every noise and shadow -- I would finally stifle all by drawing the feather tic (a thick type of cover) high above my head. But not before being certain that my three older brothers, who shared our room, were still breathing. There was some security in numbers.