I got the call from the realtor this morning as I drove up I-17 to Phoenix. My parents’ home will finally be listed for sale this Saturday. The realtor and I exchanged a few words, shared a few laughs then hung up. Since 2008, the succession of my parents’ home has been caught up in complicated family issues. Part of me feels relieved that we’ve finally reached this point, and yet another part of me feels a great sense of loss. There’s just something about saying goodbye to the house you grew up in when there are so many memories attached. It was a small brown and white house in a subdivision called, Sun City. The streets were named after planets, and most families in the neighborhood at that time were military ones. Everyone knew each other; it felt like a real community.
I remember the first time we visited the home. My parents were so excited about purchasing a brand new house after having lived on the military base at Barksdale for some time. It must have been around 1971 – Brady Bunch era – and homes were still being constructed in the subdivision. I remember wiggling my toes through the lime green shag carpet and turning cartwheels in the wide-open space of the family room. Out back, there was a patio and yard large enough to fit a swimming pool and swing set. The family room walls were wood-paneled, and the marbled formica countertops in the kitchen matched the lime green carpet. Not real stylish by today’s standards. Down the long hallway were three bedrooms. It wasn’t a very big house, but big enough for a family of three and house pets.
After settling in, my parents had a swimming pool built in the backyard. The sound of drills and other motorized equipment woke me up in the mornings, and I’d stand on my bed to peer out the window inspecting the daily progress. It was like waiting for Christmas. I eagerly anticipated the day that I could finally go swimming! When, at last, that day arrived, I got into the pool and fearfully clung to the edge for weeks. My mom immediately signed me up for swim lessons at the local YMCA, which fixed my fear of water pretty quick. Soon I was swimming like a little fish, although I hated my swim lessons and swimming laps every morning. My dad used to throw me up in the air like a cannonball while Mom lounged and watched us from a fold up lawn chair, the kind that left crisscrosses on the backs of your legs. In addition to swimming, I also spent a lot of evenings playing in the front yard with all the other kids from the neighborhood when it was still safe to do so. We’d play swing the statue, red rover, and red light/green light until the sun began to fade and our moms called us back in for the night. What good times those were.
My dad loved gardening and planted a large garden full of vegetables in the backyard behind the pool. We had fresh cucumbers, okra, tomatoes, and zucchini. My mom liked to make homemade ice cream with fresh peaches from our peach tree. I’d watch her pour the rock salt into the ice cream machine and then peer through the plastic top as the mixing arm swirled the ice cream around. What delight. In the mornings, I got used to waking up to the rumble of B-52’s revving up their engines at Barksdale Air Force base. It grew to be a comfort. I walked to Sun City Elementary School every morning and back home every afternoon with my niece or a friend unless it was too rainy or cold outside.
My parents owned that house for 37 years. The next time I visit Louisiana, the house will belong to some else, a stranger. For memory’s sake, I’ll take a spin down Pluto Drive just to check it out. I’ve heard that childhood homes don’t hold up to the memory once it passes on to new homeowners. New homeowners often remodel, the appearance changes, and the warm feelings you’d expect to emerge somehow don’t. Hmm…I wonder? In any case, I spent most of my childhood in that old house. I don’t think I could ever forget that.