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Opinion

The Whiteboard Jungle: Entering a home as a boy, leaving it as man stirs many memories, realizations

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Brian Crosby outside his boyhood home in Burbank recently.
(Courtesy of Brian Crosby)

There is a street in Burbank, maybe the shortest one in town, that connects Pass Avenue to Hollywood Way. On that street is a house where my family lived for 7½ years, from April 1969 until the fall of 1976.

That may not seem so long, but for my family it was a lifetime because that was the one residence where we lived at the longest, and where life’s obstacles tested the strength of our familial bonds.

Back then, the rent was $175 a month. Right now, it is for rent again — for $3,075 a month.

I found that out by happenstance when my wife and I took that shortcut while running errands the other day. The colorful flags out front caught my attention. The “open house” sign compelled me to stop.

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Walking into the house I was struck with how small it was, barely over 900 square feet.

The tiny living quarters seemed like a gigantic dollhouse. If one person was washing dishes in the kitchen, another person could barely squeeze in between the sink and the refrigerator and stove.

And the lone bathroom was less than half the size of the kitchen. Imagine one bathroom for five people.

Yet we did it without any complaints for that was the size of all the houses that we rented: two bedrooms and one bath. My sister, being the only female child, always had one of the bedrooms. My parents had the other, while my brother and I shared the den.

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At this house, however, my parents had the den, while I had the smallest bedroom. For the first time since he was a toddler, my 20-year-old brother had his own bedroom in the converted detached garage.

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Brian Crosby outside his boyhood home in Burbank on high-school graduation day in 1976.
(Courtesy of Brian Crosby)

We never felt that we lacked anything. All the credit goes to our parents who, despite minimum financial means, always made sure we had food to eat, new clothes each school year, and presents for birthdays and Christmas.

When I first entered this house, I was still in elementary school; when I left, I was attending UCLA.

This was the house where my family got our first color television.

This was the house where I got a blue Schwinn Stingray bike for Christmas.

This was the house where a stray cat had a litter of kittens in a drawer of my parents’ dresser. From that litter, we kept one who ended up living for 18 years, keeping my mother company when she eventually lived alone.

This was the house where my Dad was stricken with lung cancer, dying within a year. When I began living in the house, I had a 50-cent weekly allowance; when I left I was receiving Social Security survivor benefits.

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How ironic that 14 months after my father passed away at UCLA Medical Center, I was hospitalized at the same facility for one month, my body attacked by psoriasis.

When we moved into the house in 1969, we were a family of five. When my mother and I moved out in 1976 after my brother and sister left, we were only two, moving into an apartment for the first time.

In that period of time, the nation witnessed the first moon landing, the end of the Vietnam War, Watergate, President Nixon’s resignation, and the bicentennial celebration. Locally, the 1971 Sylmar earthquake reminded Angelenos of the ground’s instability.

I entered that house a boy and exited a man, with too much growing up in between.

It is a cruel reality that people cannot grasp sense of their lives as they are living them.

It is not until years have passed that allows us the perspective of our narrative, to look back over the entire tapestry of experiences and to think: My God, how amazing that we lived in that house and still remained a close-knit family, weathering the storms that banged at the door of our domicile.

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