Sunday, March 22, 2009

Old House

Alzheimer’s stalks my 86-year-old mother like a cunning thief, stealing a little more of her memory each day. I like to put it back sometimes.... even if it is temporary. Our conversations of late seem to be trips down Memory Lane, so recently I checked her out of the nursing home for a day and took her on an actual tour of the several houses our family lived in from 1950 to 1966 in Kingsport, TN.
I always list Kingsport as my "hometown". I was six years old when we moved there. When I went looking for the first house I could remember living in I had no street name in mind. There were vague memories of walking to school with my sister. So I reckoned that if I could find the school, the house would be easy to find. But memory is such a trickster! The path we took to school seemed so much longer than it actually was. In reality, the house was a mere 150 yards from the school, which, by the way, was still there and still an elementary school.
I drove around the neighborhood until I finally saw a small, one-story frame house that matched the one in my fragmented memory banks. But how could the house have been that small? Another memory trick? Not really... after all, 54 years ago I was only three and a half feet tall! So everything seemed bigger, I reasoned. I retrieved the digital camera from the front seat I told Mom I would only be a minute and took a couple of photos of the house. Someone had maintained it pretty well, I thought. They had even added a front porch. We drove away in search of the next place we lived and we drove I recounted to Mom a couple of events I remembered from those days:

Our first television. Dad sold Admiral television sets. That’s what we called them…. “sets” He brought home a small portable “set” he had borrowed from the store. The picture was fuzzy so we sat it on a kitchen chair near the front door. Dad worked with the rabbit ears until the snowy, fuzzy picture became a bit clearer. We watched an old western starring John Payne. How wonderful it all was. The “set” went back the next day. I would be six more years before we would have another TV in the house.

A violent argument between my mother and father. . She threw plates and cups and saucers at him and he yelled at her to stop. When she was out of china she locked herself in the bathroom, sobbing. He pounded on the door, demanding entry. I Peering up at the fracas from my bedroom door. When I was finally noticed, my father led me back to bed and assured me that everything was all right. But I was frightened. Was our family breaking up? What would happen to me? Would I live with my grandmother? But it was a passing storm. The next morning it was as if nothing had happened. Mom smiled through breakfast. Dad kissed her good bye and then went to work. Mother did not remember the episode. I never knew what sparked the fight.

Being in love. My first grade teacher was Miss Ellen Rudd. She smelled like flowers and was beautiful. Because my last name started with a "B" I sat close to her desk and stared at her, so prim and pretty with a smile that said "You're special" every time she looked my way.