Wednesday, April 23, 2008
The House on Emile Street
It felt odd, having her picture taken all by herself. That was for only children and she certainly wasn't that. Used to standing in the middle of the whole gang, they'd line up by age and all she had to do was be still, look straight ahead and smile until they took the picture. This time she'd picked out her own clothes and dressed herself too, slipping on her shiny Mary Janes and those little white socks with ruffles around the ankles. When you're one of six, getting Momma's attention for such things didn't happen much. Someone brushed her hair and clipped it with a little plastic barrette, to keep the blonde curls out of her eyes. She squinted them from the bright Texas sun, and stood where she was told, next to the big pecan tree in the yard. Covered with scars from rain, hail and ice storms, every fall it still dropped loads and loads of pecans. Inside or out, no scars were on seven years old, not much had happened yet to mark her skin, or her soul.

How she loved that big old white house. Later she wouldn't be able to tell how long she lived there. On Emile Street time wasn't counted by years, but by the many memories of happy times, gentle times, simple times. Times of playing dolls on the front porch, while rain fell in gushes over the gutters, and she stayed dry. Days she escaped the summer heat by slipping under the house to play in the dirt with her four brothers, digging holes for cars, and making forts. When any of them had to go to the bathroom, they just dug another hole. It was their secret, grown-ups would never know!

On Emile Street her brothers showed her how to melt snails on the sidewalk with Momma's Morton salt. They'd melt like nobody's business into a gooey sludge, and when you scooted them away with your shoe, it left a wet spot where they'd been. There were no trees on the other side of the house but it was the perfect place to spread a blanket on the grass and make clover necklaces with her big sister. They watched for bees hovering over the clover flowers they were stealing from under their noses. Bee stings didn't really hurt that much, and it was fun pulling out their stingers. You could keep them in a mason jar as a pet for the day. Daddy allowed pets in jars.

She left that house every morning, one of the 'big kids', while 'the babies' stayed at home. Momma had told her, 'soon as you learn to tie your shoes you can go with them.' Making all those loops had been so confusing and her little fingers still struggled to manage it. Mary Janes solved that!

Years later the house on Emile Street would gather up and hold all her ideas of what 'home' should be, from the big porch, to the high ceilings and tall windows, open rooms and a sprawling yard for doing somersaults and cartwheels til she felt sick from it. Someday she'd long to visit it again, if it was still standing. Maybe termites would have gotten it. The Piney Woods of Texas had lots of termites. She'd spend the rest of her life looking for that house, trying to recapture that time. Maybe what she was looking for was the little girl who lived there, who played in the yard, under the house, on the front porch with a whole gang of brothers and a sister and had no scars on her skin or soul, maybe it wasn't just the house she longed for.

Note: Thank you to Susie, at Bluebird Blogs, for the beautiful new design of my template, using photo of me, age seven, taken at Emile Street.

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  posted at 8:00 AM

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    Girl Raised in the South

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