NOTE: In this second of a four-post series, I answer the question, “How’s my hometown, 37 years after I abandoned her?”
I journeyed to the Texas Panhandle to bury my eldest sister.
A sad moment, yes, but an opportunity, too. A chance to cruise old “stomping grounds,” using wizened eyes, peeling away teenaged angst, and replacing memory with meaning and appreciation.
A drive-by to First Home revealed a house I recognized only by outline, shape, and a large front window. At the large trees, I smiled.
From the pinkish-paint to the solid front exterior, everything looked new. Extended carport, enclosed porch. Two sticks: flag pole and yard light.
My family’s decade here — mid-’50s to 1964 — vanished into history. Except those massive trees, adult children of my father’s planting days. I hear fierce hammering as he pounds wood squares tied with twine into backyard dirt still winter-hard.
I drive across town to New House. My eyes squint. This is, once again, a New House. Not ours.
A stranger tree guards where our willow once loomed. On the upper lawn, weedy grass covers where pink petals from our mimosa tree fluttered. The garage door holds windows and a stained picket fence graces our wide porch.
My second floor bedroom window is hidden. I take that as a good omen.
I’m two down for Home. Surely, School will be different?
At my first school, Sam Houston Elementary, I spot bare ground. When did this happen?
I imagine the terrifying teacher of that one year: Esther Ruth Gibson. You may remember my profile of her.
Mrs. Gibson terrified me. She stood six feet tall (or more) and greeted me the first day of class. I cranked my neck skyward then buried my Size five torso into my mother’s skirt and burst into tears.
The terror of that year lingered in my memories until last year. I found a letter Mrs. Gibson wrote my parents and closed with, “Melanie is a writer.”
Mrs. Gibson knew first.
One more elementary school to view: Austin Elementary where I attended grades 2–6.
I recall a playground filled with non-stop action. Swing sets, slides, and a see-saw, plus some kind of whirly-bird contraption.
Where do today’s kids play? Or do cell phones and iPads count as recess?
One last school stop: Lee Junior High, a name now buried into history and, soon, dust.
I marvel at the unintended symbolism: an abandoned flag pole and a broken handicapped ramp. With potholes for a bonus.
Too delicious for words.
Intentional? Or merely clueless?
I left my hometown with one more question.
Where is Home when your houses and schools vanish?