When I was 5, my family moved to the suburbs. It was the mid-70’s and it was the thing to do. We lived in Houston and moved to a fairly new subdivision off of FM 1960. I remember my mama telling me that FM stood for farm to market road and it meant that this paved four lane road used to be nothing but a dirt path that farmers used to carry their produce to the local markets. It fascinated me to no end to think that, in my mind at least, just mere months before we moved there, the road was covered with old men in overalls pushing wheelbarrows full of produce.
We moved in to our new two-story colonial-style home in April of 1976. I remember the month because I was enrolled in a new Kindergarten class just in time to participate in their theatrical performance of The Tortoise and the Hare. Since I was a latecomer, I was given the role of stand-by rabbit #4 and my costume consisted of a pink leotard and tights with a bonnet like thing with white bunny ears. It wasn’t nearly as splashy as the costume a girl named Amy got to wear, which was a full-hot pink bunny costume complete with a yellow fur tummy. Oh, I was envious and, in fact, months later when Amy and I became friends and I spent the night at her house, I saw the bunny costume hanging in her closet and suggested that I try it on. It was rabbit perfection, just as I had imagined.
Anyway, I vaguely remember the day we moved into our new house on Misty Lea Lane. A few things stood out to me immediately. The first was that we had a fire hydrant in our front yard. I thought that was about the greatest thing ever and if, at the age of 5, I had been allowed to write the MLS listing of our new home it would have read like this: 4 BR, 2 1/2 BA, NEW CARPET AND FIRE HYDRANT IN FRONT YARD. The other feature that took my breath away was the fact that it was two stories. The stairs offered an endless amount of possibilities for entertainment. And lastly, the wallpaper in the entryway was a flocked, velvet texture in a lovely shade of avocado green. I remember feeling that wallpaper with my fingertips and thinking, “Lawsy, we sho’ is rich now Miz Scarlett.”
One of the best features of the house was that the downstairs portion made a complete circle. If my friends and I wanted to play hide and seek, we could start in the formal living room, which led to the family room, which led to the breakfast area and kitchen, then the dining room and back to the living room. It allowed for endless games of chase. And there was a closet in the den, right next to the wet bar (love the 70’s and the requisite wet bar), that was tucked under the stairs so that the ceiling of it was slanted. It fascinated me to no end.
All the bedrooms were upstairs with my parents’ bedroom on one side of the staircase and the other 3 bedrooms on the other side. I remember lying in bed at night, trying to gather up my courage to walk to their room, knowing I would have to walk past the stairs and heaven only knows what could have been lurking at the bottom of those stairs just waiting for a 6 year old in a Holly Hobby nightgown to walk by.
I had my own room with a brass bed with an old-fashioned bedspread with yellow flowers on it but, in reality, my sister and I shared her bedroom. She had two twin beds with pink headboards, and I slept in the room with her every night because I gave new meaning to the word scaredy-cat. I’m not sure what kind of defense I thought a 3 year old in Winnie the Pooh pajamas would offer me from the boogeyman, but I felt better knowing she was there. Plus, when insomnia hit us, we had a playmate right in the next bed. And my sister always kept a stash of Sunmaid raisins in her nightstand drawer which, looking back, was sheer brilliance on her part.
The remaining bedroom was a guest bedroom/playroom. It was filled with our Barbies and their townhome, complete with elevator, various baby dolls and doll beds, and a record player so that we could listen to The Bee-Gees or Olivia Newton-John. We spent hours playing in that room and Barbie put on many the concert with her Olivia Newton-John lipsynching skills.
One of the best things that ever happened to that house was when my parents got it professionally landscaped. The landscapers filled the yard with flower beds covered in dark, pine mulch and each flower bed had a little ditch feature around it to keep the grass from encroaching on the bed. My friends and I would fill up those little moats with water, drag Barbie out there in her Winnebago and have a good, old fashioned Barbie campout complete with a river. It was treacherous terrain for Barbie and Ken, roughing it out there amongst the azaleas.
We had a metal swing set with pastel-colored stripes winding around the legs. Whatever happened to the good old metal swingsets? They’ve been killed off by the wooden playscape, probably because all of the tetanus shots kids of the 70’s had to have after being cut by a sharp piece of metal sticking out of a see-saw.
We would spend hours swinging and jumping out of our swings. Twisting them around and around until the chains creaked and couldn’t go any tighter, and then spinning wildly out of control, stumbling off the swing and falling facedown in the St. Augustine grass.
The backyard also had a cement patio and it was the scene of much of my early rollerskating choreography. I would put on my new white rollerskates with lime green wheels and stoppers, and come up with routines that would make Olivia Newton-John and the entire cast of Xanadu weep with envy. It was just a matter of time before a talent scout discovered me on the back patio and begged me to come to Hollywood, or maybe just The Magic Skate.
Our house was on a street with a cul-de-sac and there was never a shortage of kids to play with, night or day. This was back in the days when parents didn’t live in as much fear as we do now, and we were allowed to freely roam the streets of the neighborhood in pre-adolescent gangs, searching for the next game of kickball, freeze tag, or hide and seek. And finally, dusk would fall and you’d hear mamas all up and down the street calling for their kids to come inside and eat supper. My best friend, Caroline Fletcher, lived two houses down and we probably killed the neighbors’ lawns in between our houses with all the running back and forth we did all day long.
I’m the one on the end with the goofy look on my face. Obviously, I have always been shy and reserved.
We lived in the house until the summer before I started 7th grade. By then, Caroline Fletcher and her family had moved away and so had several other families. I guess on to bigger and better parts of suburbia. My parents had gotten divorced, so my mama moved us to Beaumont to live down the street from her mama and daddy. We moved into a smaller house in Beaumont, one that holds just as many memories, but memories of teen years and bedroom walls filled with Homecoming mums and cheerleader pom-poms.
When I think of my childhood home, I always think of the yellow two-story house on Misty Lea Lane with the white shutters and a mailbox out front that my Big Bob built that was a perfect replica of the big house. It was the place where I built my memories of childhood; long summer nights filled with fireflies and kick the can, 4th of July block parties in the cul-de-sac, walking home from the bus stop after a long day of school, and riding my blue bike with the flowered banana seat up and down the block while Caroline Fletcher rode her Green Machine right next to me. Memories I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world, memories that surprise me even now as I sit here with tears in my eyes, filled with more nostalgia than should be allowed.
If you want to share memories of your childhood home, head on over to Mary at Owlhaven’s for more information. Or if you just want to read some other memories, then go check out all the links.
Meanwhile, I’m off to help Caroline create some childhood memories of her own.