Big House in the Little Town

As a kid, I always wanted to live in a house with a lot of stairs. The irony was that due to my visual impairment, I was more prone to falling down them. In 1973, we moved from the big city of Tucson, Arizona, to the little town of Sheridan, Wyoming. I was twelve years old, and my brother Andy was seven years younger.

Grandpa Johnson passed away two years earlier, and Grandma needed someone to run the family’s coin-operated machine business. Since Dad’s siblings weren’t interested, he felt compelled to make the move. We found my dream house a couple of years later.

It was a three-story red brick structure on a quiet street. The house faced south with a basement containing the furnace and hot water heater.

The ground floor consisted of a living and dining room, kitchen, and breakfast nook. Off the living room was a small study and a bathroom containing only a toilet and sink.

The second floor had three small bedrooms, a full bath, and a laundry room. My room was next to the laundry room.

The washing machine never worked right after Dad and my uncles dropped it down the second floor stairs while moving it. Sometimes, it agitated more slowly than usual, making an ominous buzzing noise. During the spin cycle, no matter how evenly clothes were distributed throughout the machine’s interior, it shook, as if in in an earthquake.

For a while, there was also a jukebox in the laundry room. Andy and I spent many happy hours with friends, listening to music and watching the washer dance.

My parents occupied the bedroom across from mine, and the one next to it was made into a study containing my closed-circuit television magnifier, Mother’s typewriter table and desk, a couch that folded into a bed, and for a time, Grandma’s old recliner.

The area off the living room downstairs was what we called the book room. Shelves were installed, and for a while, there was even a pinball machine, a couch, and a stereo. When nobody was playing pinball, it was a place where one could sit and read and/or listen to music.

The third floor was Andy’s domain. It contained two large rooms and a full bath which he later converted into a dark room when he took up photography. He used the front room as a work area where he built model airplanes. The middle room served as his bedroom.

The back yard, surrounded mostly by a fence, consisted of a large open area where at one time, we had a trampoline. Andy and others with better eyes played ping pong and croquet. There was also a wooded area near the back gate, just right for barbecues.

A circular driveway led from the street around back to the garage. Next to the garage was a carriage house with a loft. We moved in the spring of 1976 at the end of my eighth grade year while Andy was in elementary school.

When I was in high school, I pretended to be a singing star like Olivia Newton-John. I stood on the front porch and sang, using a wood chip as a microphone while Andy banged an old paint can to accompany me. Neighborhood kids acted as our audience.

Eventually, Mother and Dad got Andy a drum set and lessons. The drums were set up in the dining room, and our little band was formed with me on piano and vocals and Andy on drums. Dad occasionally joined us on string bass. A couple of years later, the breakfast nook was converted into a music room, and all our equipment, including the stereo, was moved in there.

Now, my parents are gone. Andy lives in Florida with a family of his own. The house was sold long ago, but I still remember.

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What do you recall about a childhood home?

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

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Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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I’m a Star

I wanted to be a star ever since I sang Simon and Garfunkel’s “El Condor Pasa” while accompanying myself on piano in the Kiwanis Club Stars of Tomorrow contest in Sheridan, Wyoming, back in the 70’s. I was twelve years old at the time. A couple of years later, my younger brother Andy found an old paint can he used as a drum and a wood chip I pretended was a microphone. To hear me read a poem I wrote about that experience, visit https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/I%27m%20a%20star.mp3 .

Soon after that, Andy got a drum set. Our band moved from the front porch to the dining room with me on piano and vocals and Andy on drums. As a sophomore in high school, I again entered the Stars of Tomorrow contest. They had a silly rule that a younger person couldn’t accompany an older person so Andy couldn’t play the drums while I sang “You Light Up My Life,” accompanying myself on the piano. However, I could accompany Andy on piano while he played drums. In this fashion, we performed “You Don’t’ Have to be a Star to Be in My Show.” To hear the original sung by Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nb9jJg_wIU . Andy didn’t win, but I took second place with my rendition of “You Light Up my Life.” Here’s what it sounded like. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/you%20light%20up%20my%20life.mp3

After graduating from high school, I decided not to move to Nashville, New York, or L.A. and try to make it big. I went to college where I majored in music and eventually got into music therapy. For fifteen years, I worked in a nursing home, singing old standards like this one. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/stormy%20weather.mp3 After fifteen years, I decided to become a writer when I married my late husband Bill.

Three months after our wedding, Bill suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side. I became a caregiver but found time to publish two books and write poems and stories and submit them to publications. Now that Bill is gone, I have more time for that and have published a third book and am working on a fourth. I still sing but not as often.

Recently though, I became a bit of a celebrity in my home town. I entered a talent competition connected with our monthly third Thursday festival that runs during the summer months downtown. To my surprise, I won and was asked to sing the national anthem at a polo match. Andy and his wife Christina, who were visiting from Florida, managed to catch most of my performance on video. The sound you’ll hear in the background is the wind, not bombs bursting in air as you might imagine. It may take a little longer for this one to come up when you click on it. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/national%20anthem%20polo%207-26-2015.MOV

If you’re within the sound of my voice, I’ll be performing on the main stage at the next third Thursday festival in downtown Sheridan on August 20th. It’s located in front of the old Woolworth building on the corner of Main and Grinnell. My program will run from five to five thirty p.m. I’ll accompany myself on guitar instead of piano.

I’m not a super star like Olivia Newton-John or Debbie Boon, but that’s okay. I love to perform when I get a chance, and audiences love me. That’s what matters.

It’s the same with my writing. I’ve published three books with a fourth on the way, but I’m not a best-selling author. That doesn’t bother me. I love what I do, and my readers enjoy my work. As the song goes, “You don’t have to be a star.”

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

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