After her divorce, my mother moved herself, my sister and me in with my grandparents, so I was raised in the same house that my mother had grown up in. It was on an over-sized corner lot and was the only run-down house in an upper-middle-class neighborhood. A two-story structure with fake red brick (asbestos) siding, 4201 Blossom Street stood out as that house…the 1939 model that everyone else on the street wished would be updated or torn down. With a dry, weedy front yard and a semi-circle dirt driveway cutting a kittycorner path across the lot, you could almost hear the neighbors wondering, “Well, why don’t they at least plant some damn grass over there?” Thankfully, the driveway was finally paved in the early 1970’s, but no one ever bothered to plant anything, leaving things au naturel (which translates to ‘we just don’t want to do any maintenance’).
The backyard was overgrown though, which at least made it darker and a bit cooler than the front. The underbrush was broken up only by a bike path that the neighborhood kids had worn down, snaking between the trees, through the scruffy weeds and ivy, just beneath the scuppernong vines. If you got a good running start in the front yard, you could catch a little air at a bump that you hit just before reaching the street in the very back. (I personally never got any air, mind you…that would have possibly been dangerous, which wasn’t part of my scaredy-cat agenda.)
Because we were on a corner, we even had our very own stop sign, and my sister and I loved to swing on that thing…so much so that it eventually got loose enough in the ground that it almost fell over. We got yelled at more than once for loosening up that sign, but Lynnie and I were rebels–we didn’t care about no stinkin’ stop sign rules!
I had a love-hate relationship with that house. It was the first home I knew, but it just had too much history. We were the fourth generation of our family to live there, and there were quite a few scary corners that seemed to just be chock full of old memories. The big, dark closet at the top of the stairs (full of dusty old clothes, suitcases and a trunk with my long lost father’s name on it) scared me so much that I still occasionally have nightmares about it. Then there was a weird back door behind the kitchen that had no steps leading down from it on the outside of the house…it boggled the mind! Worst of all though, was the basement. You couldn’t pay us to go down the rickety stairs into what we were sure was the gateway to hell! Only Granddaddy was brave enough to venture down there, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t so thrilled about it either.
Lynnie and I were also a bit unnerved by several strange red spots on the floor of our grandparent’s bedroom. That room had first belonged to our great-grandfather, William, known to his friends as Pop. His family name was (according to my mother) spelled PoPa, but I’m not sure I buy that version. It was pronounced PawPaw, but Miss Colleen swears by PoPa and, since he was her grandfather, I guess we have to go along with her (under protest). Anyway, my little sister and I were convinced that those mysterious crimson spots in our great-grandfather’s former bedroom had to be blood! (It never occurred to us that blood wouldn’t continually stay bright red…that it would fade into a rusty brown…but we were lovers of drama and obviously didn’t recognize spilled nail polish when we saw it.) Now, PoPa died of a heart attack when we were tiny girls, and I don’t even remember him. Mama says that he died while waiting for a bus in downtown Columbia, but Lynnie and I thought we knew better, surmising that those blood red spots were somehow involved in PoPa’s passing…and that there may have been foul play! Obviously, that wasn’t the case, but I would bet you that any time either of us sees any red nail polish, paint or spilled red liquid, our thoughts immediately go back to those sinister ‘blood’ stains.
That house was 35 years and almost 3000 miles ago. Since then I’ve lived in quite a few apartments, houses, and even a trailer, but I never felt like I had a real home until I found the 1923 cottage that I live in now. It’s the only place I’ve ever lived that hasn’t periodically felt creepy, haunted, or heavy with strange or dark energy. I can walk through this place with all the lights off and never feel watched, and it’s the perfect home for me and the two cats that I belong to. There’s just enough room to get up some speed every night at 10:00 for a chasing frenzy (them…not me) but, at less than 1,000 square feet, it doesn’t take long to vacuum. It’s mama-bear just right, and I love it.
I bought this house with husband #2, but he was too big for it, and it spit him out after three years. He left a ton of books, clothes and just plain junk, along with a fist-sized dent in one of the heating ducts in the (not scary) basement that was too low for his 6’4″. After he left to go back to his mom in New Jersey, my little cottage finally started feeling like a real home. I’ve had another nine years in it since #2 left, and I’m grateful every day to have such a special, safe place that’s all about me and my story. I look around and see my life’s treasures, my crazy cats, and the trappings of an ex-bookseller with a penchant for funky old things…and I’m happy.
I’m also happy that I’m able to tell you about these things. Thank you for reading, and for letting me share my story with you…it feels like home.