Sunday, July 22, 2007

The street where I live

Part I: Growing Up

I don't remember the first house I lived in. My folks refer to it as the "Lakeshore House," somewhere in the Lakeshore Estates development in an unincorporated part of Hamilton County, Tennessee. It was the first place my parents lived after they were married. Even photos of this house's interiors or exteriors don't bring back any memories for me, although I'm sure my brother, three and a half years old than I, remembers it. This picture is my father's birthday in 1966 -- I'm about eight months old. That's my paternal grandmother's famous homemade caramel icing on a yellow layer cake. We moved out of this house when I was two or three years old.

What I'll always think of as my childhood home is this stucco Tudor on Glendon Drive in the Brainerd neighborhood. That's my older brother in the Tennessee Vols sweatshirt, riding his sweet banana-seat, high-handlebar bike on our quiet street, sometime around 1970. You can see the fake half-timbering that needed to be repainted by a friendly guy named Roy every five years or so. There was a full finished basement, four bedrooms and two full baths on the second floor, and an entirely inadequate kitchen from back in the day when homebuilders and homemakers thought it was more important to have a huge formal living room than a functional place to make jello molds. My favorite room in the house was the massive cube stuck on the back -- two car garage below, den/TV room above, complete with a flat concrete roof that comprised the view from my bedroom window.

When I was fourteen years old, we built a house on a clearing atop a hill on our farm property, twenty miles away in the miniscule crossroad town of Apison. Here's how it looked in one of the snowstorms that periodically prevented us from making our way down the steep blacktop that connected us to McGhee Road. Separate garage doors for each car -- that must have been our dream. You can just make out the basketball goal we put up on the slight upslant of the driveway, the area where cars backing out of the garage were supposed to make a Y turn. This picture must have been taken in 1979 , because we hadn't yet built the tennis court that took up the entire foreground, surrounded by chain link fence. It was a 45 minute commute to high school, carpooling with my dad whose office was just across the river downtown. Once the nest was empty, while I was in graduate school at Georgia, my parents pulled up stakes and moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia. It's hard for me to imagine other people living in this house, which we designed and built, on this land that I visited every weekend with my dad to tend to the dwarf fruit trees we planted and the dozen or so head of cattle we raised. But the nature of houses is that they change hands, and the current owners, whoever they are, would probably find it just as odd that anyone else might feel proprietary about it.

Stay tuned for Part II: On My Own.


Eric Grubbs said...

Your brother's bowtie in the first picture is precious.

cheryl rice said...

A great idea for a blog post! You bring back some nice memories. Thinking of you up in Connecticut (a few moves from the old Brainerd neighborhood for me, too) ...

Adamanthenes said...

I know I told you this, but my grandfather's family came from a day's wagon ride in some direction of Chattanooga.

Your post made me think about the places where I grew up. I don't remember a lot, but the things I do remember are extremely vivid.

Adam Villani said...

My parents lived in the same house in Long Beach from 1976, just before my 3rd birthday, to 2004. So any time I have a dream in which I'm at "home," it's always that house, even though I've mostly lived on my own since going away to college. I have a handful of very vague memories of the house we lived in previous to that in Manhattan Beach, which we moved into when I was 16 months old. Before that, we lived in New Jersey, but I don't have any memories of that, nor of the road trip to California.

Ten years ago I visited the northeast with a friend of mine, and my parents told me where to find the house we lived in when I was born. I was able to find it and took a picture, but I had no memories of it (it would have been pretty surprising if I did).

One house I've lived in on my own has already been demolished. I lived in a big old pink house in Koreatown with four friends of mine from college for about a year and a half from 1998 to 2000. The house was so big that we couldn't even furnish every room in the place, even when one guy's brother came out to live with us for a summer. The neighborhood was very urban, full of apartments and commercial buildings (it was a block away from Wilshire Blvd.), and a couple years ago the house was torn down to build apartments. The previous tenants had been a Korean church called the "True Love Church." We'd get their mail some of the time and we generally referred to the house as the True Love Church.