I don’t know how many homes most people grow up in. Two? Three? Half a dozen? I can recall nine places that at one point in my youth I called “home”. And because most of those places don’t conjure up the warmest of memories, I’m adding an honorary tenth home. I was there often enough in my earliest years to establish many memories, all of which I recently discovered, I treasure.
Do you see this apartment complex? It was never one of my homes. But now it is a home to many, and what I have a painfully difficult time wrapping my head around is the fact that NONE of the people who live here know that where their home now is, one of my homes once was. Where this pavement is now, where these apartments are- there used to be two houses. On the same stretch of property, only separated by a small paved walkway. That walkway had handprints in it. The handprints of my cousins, my siblings, and myself. About ten hands in all. Next to that walkway there was a clothes line between to concrete posts. Next to that, there was a plum tree where you could almost always find half a dozen bicycles lined up. There was a pomegranate tree that, unless you wanted to get in trouble with Great Grandma, you didn’t ever touch. Besides, pomegranates are a lot of work for little pay off- especially for a five year old. Next to the houses there was a rusty old swing set, and a cage that one of my uncles kept pigeons in. Behind the houses the was a chicken coop and a fig tree, and large garden that I’m not really sure we were allowed to eat from, but if you’ve ever had fresh strawberries, you know we did.
This home- both houses- is one of the places I hold dear. I remember getting ready for church and grandma combing the cowlicks out of my hair at the kitchen sink. I remember her peach cobbler, and the iced tea that could always be found in the fridge during summer. I remember the time my siblings and I rode bicycles up a hill near the creek, I hit a large rock at the bottom, and wondered for a long time afterward if all the freckles on my shoulder were caused by that accident. A few years later I remember going back to that home in the summer with my older sister, and watching movies on repeat; Driving Miss Daisy and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. I really don’t know if we ever watched any other movies, those are the only two I’ve preserved in my memory for all these years. I remember dinner always being an open invitation and never knowing who to expect, but the evenings I loved most were the crowded ones.
It’s an odd thing, recalling this home, validating my memories, when there is nothing tangible left of them. It could be a lie. Or just an error in my recollection. Maybe the hand prints were never there. Maybe the pigeons weren’t either. Something about those houses not being there, about none of it being there, feels eerily like someone is grasping at my memories, trying to tear them down as well. Threatening to take them, lest I bury them somewhere untouchable. Maybe that’s why this is so painful. I’m worried that I won’t be able to bury them securely enough. That one day someone or something, or maybe just time itself, will come along and pull up my memories, and build something on top of them as if the ground had never before belonged to anyone else.
If these memories are not always going to linger, then I pray that whatever one day replaces them will be even sweeter.
My great grandmother used to have the most beautiful array of lilies lining the dirt driveway. Every time that I have smelled lilies since my early childhood, I immediately picture her garden.
-The Monster Queen