First Apartment--First Independence

By Sandra Sylvester | Jun 23, 2014

Knox County — As I look forward to returning to my beloved State of Maine at last, I thought I’d look back at where I have come from in regards to my living situations over the years. Many college graduates are out looking for apartments as I speak and are as anxious as I was to be independent at last.

The apartment described below was not my first living arrangement as a young person living in Hartford, Connecticut. This was however, the first time I had ventured out to have my own apartment sans roommates. Before this apartment, I lived with five other women in a rented house. They were all teachers, whereas I had given up that profession, and were on to other things. One of them was getting married; one traveling to Japan to teach; and the others had their own plans. So, that living arrangement was broken up.

The apartment I chose to move into wasn’t far from the house we rented. I had one big room; a small kitchen; a small bathroom with a shower; and a sleeping porch. The stove was a small gas four-burner that didn’t always work when you wanted it to. I was not used to gas stoves and sometimes had trouble lighting it. It had to be relit every time you used it. It’s a wonder I didn’t blow up the place. I usually ended up cooking on an electric hot plate and using one of those counter stove/toaster combos to cook other stuff. It was before the age of microwaves.

For furniture I had a red patterned drop down couch which was very uncomfortable but served the purpose. I decided to sleep on the enclosed porch eventually in a small iron bed I’d taken with me from the house. The porch had neither heat nor insulation, so I used a space heater to keep warm in the winter. I bought a huge roll-up curtain to hang over the windows.

I think I had one comfortable chair to sit in and the most unusual thing I had was a bar my brother Harlan made for me. It had velvet paint on the inside of it. Why I thought I needed I bar, I don’t know as I have never been much of a drinker. In any event, that bar was never stocked with any liquor that I remember. I do remember that I put the litter box behind it, so that it would be hidden. I also had a coffee table that was made out of an old wooden lobster trap along with a lamp or two.

The apartment was one of two in a big house that had been split down the middle and made into two living spaces. The fireplace backed into both places. Neither fireplace worked. My neighbor was a young woman who had five cats and we were friendly towards each other. I loved this apartment and was happy that at last I could do what I wanted to in my own place. I especially liked the fact that the used bike I’d found to buy was great for going down the street to the drug store or the other way to a big park at the end of the street. Sometimes I’d put my mackerel tabby cat, Sylvester, in the basket and off we’d go to spend some time in the sunshine.

It was the 70s and the flower generation was finally coming out of their drug-induced existence and realizing that perhaps living on a commune for the rest of their lives was not such a good idea. They drifted back into the corporate world; got married; had kids; and worked to pay the mortgage; car payments; and their school loans like everyone else.

At my age, I was never part of that scene. While the “flower children” were running around protesting the war, I was already working to make a living. I came from a small town to live in the big city and seek out those opportunities that may be presented to me. My mindset was to work hard and make something of myself if possible. My Yankee background; family upbringing; and the principle of stick-to-it-ness came to the fore.

I ended up working in that nether world called the “night shift.” It was rare that I saw the light of day, especially when I ended up working the lobster shift, midnight to eight in the morning. The apartment was on a high-traffic street that served as a throughway to get to other sections of the residential district. I went to work in the dark and tried to block out the sun and the traffic noises out on the sleeping porch so that I could sleep during the day. During the school year I also had to shoo the kids out of the hallway when they tried to come in from the cold to wait for the school bus. There was no lock on that front door.  I ended up living like a vampire who sleeps in a casket every day.

During that period of employment I had the weekends off so I tried to at least live an ordinary existence from Saturday morning to Monday at midnight when I returned to work. I wasn’t always successful, but I at least tried to maintain a few relationships.

I didn’t always work the night shift while I lived in Connecticut. During one period of actual day work I was able to join a community chorus and belong to a theater group, The Mark Twain Maskers. Both experiences were a lot of fun.

I also belonged to a singles club who planned trips together. I was able to go skiing in Vermont with this group as well as visit the World’s Fair in Montreal and travel to Puerto Rico. The club held a “members only” dance about once a month. I met a lot of nice people.

It was during this period of my life in Hartford that I met two men with exactly the same name. Their first name was Dave. I won’t give you the last name in case either one of them will someday read this story. Why do I worry about that fact? Because neither one knew of the other’s existence. I determined they were not related to each other early on. Their last name was not all that ordinary either. I dated both of them at the same time. How did this scenario happen? How did I get myself into such a situation? I don’t think I even know or remember the answer to those two questions. In any event, I enjoyed spending time with both of them and can’t say I preferred the company of one over the other. They were both fun to be with and they both treated me with the utmost respect. Funny thing is—they were very much alike.

You never know what experiences you will have when you start out in life as an independent person. Living here in Georgia for the last 16 years with Nanci, who has become a good and loyal friend, has been wonderful. We’ve been through some good times, some thin times, some hard times, but through it all we’ve held each other up when necessary. We both look forward to living the next chapter in our lives together up in Maine.

Thanks for listening.










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