The apartments had previously been used as enlisted men’s quarters for an old Air Force Base. Originally each apartment had a living room, two bedrooms, and a long hallway which connected the rooms and dead-ended into a bathroom. The bathroom was even smaller than the one we had had in our first trailer. It had a tub, but no sink. The sinks were located in the bedrooms. Its primary feature, however, was the scariest toilet my kids had ever seen. It was an industrial tankless toilet that hooked directly to the plumbing. Every little kid is afraid of being flushed down the potty. In this case, the fear might have been justified. Every time I flushed, I could almost feel the water sucking an upstairs neighbor kid down the drain.
The kitchen in this place was the best part of all. The apartment didn’t originally have one. The enlisted men must have eaten in a Mess Hall. After the university acquired the complex, they installed an itty bitty kitchen sink and a half-size stove in the skinny little hallway which connected the rooms. My first thought when I saw the arrangement was, “I can do this. I’ve gone camping before.”
Originally we put all four kids in one bedroom and ourselves in the other. As they grew a little older, Dan and I decided to give up our room, so we could split them up. They were divided not by gender, but by messiness. The ones who lacked object permanence got one room and the ones who took after me got the other. We sold the couch and moved our bed into the livingroom.
With six of us in that little apartment, the kids were climbing the walls. I mean that literally. The kitchen hallway was so narrow that they could stretch their hands and feet on either side of the walls and shimmy up. Living in that tiny space was an efficiency experts dream: I could sit on the toilet, reach my arm around the door to stir a pan on the stove in the hallway, and use the other hand to wash footprints off the kitchen wall all at the same time.