My great Grandpa built the home that I grew up in. It was a two family Victorian in an old Italian neighborhood in Connecticut. One to three blocks away in any direction you would find an Italian Mom & Pop store or business of some type—grocer, sausage factory, Esposito’s Italian Bread Bakery. Across the street was a gas station where my brothers and I would buy our nickel bottles of soda from the old cooler with the ‘lift lid.’
Up the hill from the gas station was the St. Ann’s Italian Club and next to it was the family who made all the Christmas garlands that were hung across the streets uptown and downtown by my uncle and other locals. I once was able to tour the workshop and see all the garland-making machines, Santa and Snowman decorations. One year I was paid to test light bulbs and then screw them into the garlands.
My uncle and aunt lived downstairs and we lived upstairs in the Victorian house. Our upper floor included a great big attic with all its eves creating separate areas, each with a window. We used the attic areas as a playroom, poolroom and my brothers’ slot car racing set-up. On snowy days, I would sit in the window watching the snow and play with my Mickey Mouse Colorforms. I’d pray it would keep snowing so I would not have to go to school the next day!
In the playroom was a large wooden rocking horse with a real horsehair tail. It was our little haven up in the attic. At Christmas time, my Mother would come up and open the box of Christmas decorations my Great Grandma brought to the USA from Europe. The box contained little cardboard houses with ‘plastic film’ stained glass windows and bottlebrush trees; paper mache bells covered in foil hung from strings of glass beads held together by silver foil covered cardboard leaves.
Mom would tack one of the bell decorations on the center beam of the playroom window and all the windows that faced the street. The little houses would be placed along the windowsill like a little village. I loved picking up the houses and looking at the stained glass windows and running my fingers along the glass beads of the bells and hearing the little clinking sound as the strands touched.
Those are wonderful memories of the Victorian home, its decorations (that I wish had survived time) and the feeling I get every time I see the little cardboard houses in antique stores, books and magazines.
David Kish is a fiber Artist and Teacher.