Tuesday, October 5, 2010

523 Village Road

When I went home a few weeks ago for Michael's services, I knew it would be hard for a few reasons. The obvious being that I had lost someone who meant so much to me. Feeling that level of pain and sadness in the days following his death is not something I hope to experience again anytime soon.

The not-so-obvious reason is that on the land between the church cemetery where Michael is buried, and the funeral home where we said our final good-byes, is where my old house once stood. I remember my mama calling me a couple of years ago to tell me that it had been torn down and that an empty field was all that remained. I cried when Jeramie and I drove past that empty field not long after, and I often think of the memories we created in that old house.

Standing in my old back yard, looking toward Village Road; the funeral home is to the left, church cemetery to the right. Cars parked for Michael's visitation in the field.

Side note -- We didn't always live beside a funeral home. The establishment that housed Michael's casket, tons of flowers, and even more family and friends just a few weeks ago was our neighbor's house once upon a time. I have very vivid memories of playing in that house. Our neighbors were a little older than my parents, I think, and didn't have any children living at home, so they treated me and my sister as if we were their own. Obviously, their house has since been purchased and turned into a funeral home, and the merging of those two worlds was unreal. Memories of sharing meals and playing tag in my neighbor's house years ago have been replaced by those of crying over a life that was taken from us far too soon.

But, back to where I once lived.

One of the only pictures I could find of the whole (sort of) house. Of course, it was taken during a freak coastal snow storm!

After Michael's visitation, I asked one of my friends if she would walk over to that empty field with me. We walked around the yard for a bit and memories of what stood where came flooding back. At one point, I joked that she was probably standing on one of my dead dogs, and I'm sure it wasn't far from the truth. Living on the busiest (at the time) road in Leland, we lost lots of animals to cars, and it was a tragic event every. single. time. I specifically remember one morning that my mama was having a yard sale. Our dog was out greeting everyone and darted across the road, only to be struck by oncoming traffic. I saw it all happen, ran into the house, and locked myself in my closet. I stayed there for hours, sobbing, until a friend finally coaxed me out. I'm not even kidding about that.

As we looked around the yard, I was happy to see that our pear and pecan trees were still there. As much as I despised picking up pecans out of the yard, it is now a fond memory. Mama would take the fruits of our labor and make more pecan pies than she knew what to do with. That is, when she finally had enough shelled to do so; my sister and I were known to eat the nuts as quickly as she could crack them out of their hulls, which caused much aggravation for her, I'm sure.

One heck of a pecan tree!

We lived in that house for years. I don't remember moving into it, but I do remember moving out. The majority of the time that we lived there it was just my mama, my sister, and me. My parents had gotten a divorce and my daddy lived in Wilmington at the time. About four years later, thanks to a whole lot of love and forgiveness, my parents made the decision to re-marry each other! Daddy moved back in, of course, and we eventually moved into a bigger house across town.

Family photo on the front porch. I must have been 11 or 12 years old here.

You see, the house that once stood at 523 Village Road wasn't exactly what you'd call "spacious". There was a living room, dining room, kitchen, and back porch that took up one side of the house, and one bathroom and two bedrooms that took up the other. The whole house was probably the size of the downstairs of our townhouse right now (about 700 square feet). My sister and I shared a bedroom, and all three of us (four, when my daddy moved back) shared one tiny bathroom.

Living in that house was the only time Jessi and I shared a room, and I wouldn't trade those times for anything! We had some funny moments in there, and I know we drove Mama crazy with our antics. For instance, at one point Jessi was convinced that she could stand at the light switch at the foot of her bed, cut out the light, and jump in bed before the room got dark. At about six years old, she just knew that she was faster than the speed of light, and we spent more time than I'd like to admit trying to prove it.

It never worked.

It took a lot of imagination and made-up games to pass the time in our old house. Just as it wasn't very big, our family wasn't really what you would call "made of money", either. The house was owned by one of the richest men in Leland and he let my mama rent it out for a little over $200 a month. There was no central air, and our heat came from an oil drum out back. When money was tight, and we had no money to buy oil, Mama would heat the entire house with a kerosene heater and an open oven door. I can remember crawling out of bed on a cold winter morning, wrapping myself up in my comforter, and sitting at the kitchen table in front of the open oven. I thought it was the coolest thing, and Mama never let us in on the fact that we were dirt poor.

My mama is also known for having a beautiful yard, and this house was no exception. There were flowers and trees everywhere! Unfortunately, though, huge trees and living 15 miles from the coast don't go hand-in-hand during hurricane season. We spent many summers cleaning up after storms, and being thankful that our home always remained in one piece!

This was a MASSIVE tree that was uprooted during a hurricane. Had it fallen in the other direction, our house would have fallen with it. (The present day funeral home is just to the right of the tree.)

My favorite part of Mama's yard was her "nerve garden" in the back yard. She had a koi pond, tons of water plans, and beautiful flowers out there. At one point, a friendly little turtle inhabited the pond with all those fish. There was a swing, too, and you could sit out there forever, listening to the water and watching the fish swim around. I guess it's safe to say that it was named very appropriately!

More hurricane clean-up. Mama's garden took quite a hit during this storm.

Our house also came with an old, old barn. There was a basketball hoop attached to the outside of it, and we spent many hours playing rounds of "HORSE" during sleepovers and birthday parties.

Gettin' our game on. Y'all know you like my hot pink striped shirt and my purple stirrup pants!

There was a ladder that went up into a loft, and that's where I kept a pet duck that my 2nd grade classroom had hatched. I loved that duck, and I was so excited when Mama told me I could bring it home! It swam around in a baby pool in the loft of the barn, and I was so sad the day it finally flew away. Or something. The barn was also home to many, many litters of puppies. I don't know what it was about my family and dogs, but there always seemed to be a slew of them. Every time a stray dog would find its way to our house, we'd take it in, and she'd push out 10 puppies a few weeks later. I've seen more animals being birthed than I care to remember, that's for sure!

I have no idea what the town plans to do with that land, or what they plan to put in that empty field. Part of me hopes it stays empty forever. But, just as we as people grow up and move on, so does life in a small town. Old houses get torn down, small roads become bigger, and family business are replaced with franchises.

However, regardless of how big the town becomes, or how many new houses they manage to squeeze onto one piece of land, I will always have these precious memories of growing up on Village Road.

Easter Sunday - 1991-ish

Saying good-bye to an old friend, and an older house - 2010


Jenn said...

Joye, you are such a great writer. And it is uncanny how much we have in common. I grew up in a very similar house, only I think my daddy may have paid cash for it. It was the "haunted" house of the area, and no one wanted to live there, so he got it for a steal. My grandma cried and cried at the thought of her precious daughter and soon-to-be-born granddaughter living in such a dump. (He was a carpenter, so he fixed it up pretty!) But that was the house they brought me to from the hospital, and it was my address until the day I became Mrs. Tousey. My mom and step-dad sold it a few years ago, and I was fine with it, but it is sad that I can't take Sam and C there to see where I grew up. Anyway, I didn't mean to go on and on there (I didn't even get to the one tiny bathroom and NO shower!), but your memories brought back many of mine. We had pecan trees and black walnut trees, too, so I totally feel ya on having to do all the harvesting! But seriously, shutting up now.
Love you!

Stefenie said...

This post made me smile. I too came from a family of little money and lived in small home. However I like to think that it shaped me into the person that I am today. I am still happy to this day having little....just the most precious gifts in the world....my family. They are worth a lot more than the money in the bank.

Dana Enzor said...

Hey girl,
Thanks for sharing this! I always love hearing about people's memories as kids and the pictures are just awesome!! (Love the bright pink shirts! haha) Funny that the house you grew up in is about the size of our house now. I also grew up in a house that was small, and my parents still own it (rent it out) but it's definitely showing it's age. We should swap stories sometime - I'll tell you about the antics my brother and I used to get into sharing a room, and you can tell me all about what it's like to have a sister.

I'm glad you were able to smile and remember great happy memories while you were home! Love you girl!!

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