Ever since Writing 101 ended, I seem to have been unable to think of anything to write on my own. I’ve been busy at work, but that’s more an excuse than a reason, so I headed over to The Daily Post and found some inspiration in the prompt “Our House.” What are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Of course, when I first saw the prompt, I thought of the song, “Our House” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young because my childhood home was a very, very very fine house, and my musical mind tends to turn most things into song lyrics. As I reflected more over my childhood, however, I thought more about the magic of my childhood, and Supertramp’s “The Logical Song” seemed more appropriate. I haven’t hear or thought of that song in ages, but the line about a magical life came to mind, and I knew it was the one.
When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily,
Joyfully, playfully watching me.
My first home was a small house in the Great Smoky Mountains, about ten miles away from Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Across the road, lived my grandmother (Gran) and grandfather with my great-grandmother. Once, all of the land was part of the farm my great-grandparents homesteaded, but US 321 had divided the property, and it had been parceled out to different family members. The home I lived in with my parents was on about three acres, most of which was wooded. One of my favorite places was underneath the canopy of a large weeping willow, seemingly monstrous to my three-year-old eyes. It was by turns a cave, a palace, or a secret hide-out.
I’ve always been an indoors sort of girl, though, and my most vivid memories are inside the house. I was born in 1966, and the house looked like many tamer pictures of Seventies Modern interiors, with a sunburst clock, a console television, art lamps, some tulip-influenced chairs, and a deep shag carpeting in the bathroom. The kitchen was one of my favorite places, though. I spent countless hours playing in the piano-hinged corner cabinet under the kitchen counter. I took my Lite-Brite and a snack in there to play make believe in my secret fortress, or sometimes to simply read a favorite book or make designs with the pretty colored pegs as my mother cooked delicious country meals for us. I still remember the scent of cornbread baking and ominous rattlesnake hiss of fresh green beans from Gran’s garden being pressured on the stove.
I do have one less idealized memory of a meal in that kitchen, though–a testament to the willfulness of a child. Our kitchen had a bar around the counter at which we often sat to eat, and once, through the courtesy of a can of green peas, I sat at that counter all day long. I hated canned green peas. No. I loathed them. (For the record, I can eat green peas now, but not from a can. Yuck!) On this particular day for lunch, my mother had opened a can of peas to go with whatever else I was to have for lunch. I cleaned my plate–except for the offending peas.
My mother did not approve of my lack of appreciation for the peas and told me that I would sit there until I ate them. I was resolute in determination not to eat those peas! So, I sat. And I sat. And I watched as the the sun set through the kitchen window. My mother finally realized that those peas would petrify before I would eat them, and in frustration, she set me free a little before dinner time.
I often remind her of this story some 40 years later.
Moving on through my childhood home down the narrow hallway, I come to my little bedroom complete with dainty white gilded furniture. I have such a vivid and magical memory of this room: One Christmas Eve after watching The Santa Report, I had been hurried on to bed since Santa’s sleigh had been sighted in the East Tennessee region. As I got ready for bed, my mind was aflurry wondering if Santa was going to bring me the Barbie I had asked for (He did.), how long before he would get here, what would happen if I was still awake when he came, and if it would snow! My mother came in to tuck me in and turn the light out, assuring me that Santa’s snacks were where he could find them, and I tightly closed my eyes trying to coax sleep into my anxious mind.
Then it happened! I heard them–Santa’s reindeer. They were so quiet for so many large animals! I wanted to look, but was afraid to look lest Santa discover that I wasn’t really asleep. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I cracked open one eye: Sure enough, a red glow shone in my window. Too terrified to move or even breathe, I closed my single open eye and eventually fell into the peaceful sleep of a child.
But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible,
Logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
Clinical, intellectual, cynical.
I now know that the red glow I saw was a red Christmas light that was near my window that simply hadn’t caught my attention before and the lightly prancing hooves were branches scratching against the roof. Well… probably. Maybe. Or not.
I believe education is the key to a better life and a better world, but we can be too logical, responsible, practical. Too often now, I often find myself being clinical, intellectual, cynical. Remembering that visit from Santa, my kingdom under the willow, and my kitchen fortress reminded me that what I treasure most is my sense of wonder. I’m thankful that this prompt reminded me that my intellectual mind can coexist with my whimsical soul.