The Home I Used To Have, The Me I Used To Be


“I am very happy, but I am acting sad…”
 
I am living in a small white wooden house in Oak Lawn, Illinois.
 
I am sitting across the street from that house, on the grass in the sunshine on a beautiful day. Three other children are sitting in a small circle around me. I am very happy, but I am acting sad while I rub my eyes and the children sing. They are singing about me:
 
“Little Sally Sau-cer,
Sitting in the wa-ter,
Cry, Sally, cry…
Cry out your eyes…”
 
I stand up, eyes closed, one arm out straight with finger pointing, and turn slowly, pivoting back and forth while they finish singing:
 
“Turn to the East,
And turn to the West,
And turn to the one
That you love best!”
 
I stop, and open my eyes. The child I point at will take my place in the circle.
 
I am two years old.
 
I love that happy memory.
 
***
 
We have a large weeping willow on the front lawn. Its long, trailing branches reach down to the ground all around. I can go inside this curtain and sit on the soft grass floor underneath. I’m surrounded by green, and no one can see me. I spend a lot of time inside this friendly tree.
 
Inside a Weeping Willow
 
I remember the day my sister Joe’s friend, an older boy, set our roof on fire. (Some of you better know Joe now as Macy Girl.)
 
Joe’s friend was playing with a firecracker, and threw it up there. The fire was burning almost over the front door. Joe went inside our house. I stayed outside and watched the fire burn. It was very interesting, to see our house on fire! I sat down on the grass to watch some more. My daddy came outside in a hurry with a big metal bucket, and told me to move back. He threw water on the roof to put out the fire. He hit it with the water the very first time, and the whole fire went out, just like that. It left a burned-looking spot.
 
I’m glad I got to see that.
 
***
 
I have one memory when I was a tiny bit sad and another one when I was mad.
 
I am still two years old, and I have pneumonia. My mommy won’t let me go outside to play. I remember not breathing well, but I don’t remember thinking I was sick. I’m standing by the front screen door, looking out at the outside and the other kids playing, and I want to go outside, too. I’m wearing my footsie pajamas, which are nice and cuddly, but I wish I could go outside in them!
 
The mad time is when I see my daddy way up the big, big, wide stairs that go to the attic. He is very far away, and he is looking down at me through a square hole. His head looks little, and his smiling teeth and his glasses are shining. Joe is up there looking at me, too. I hate to see them looking down at me. My daddy won’t let me come up. I say “How come Joe gets to go up?” He says “You’re too little.”
 
That makes me mad.
 
***
 
My most exciting Oak Lawn memory is about a bug.
 
Joe and I are in the living room. I’m sitting on the floor next to the fireplace. I’m watching a narrow brown bug crawling across the bricks on the hearth. All of a sudden, its rear end lights up!
 
“Joe! Joe! This bug has a light!”
 
She comes running over. We both watch the bug walking. Its rear end lights up, and then turns off, and then lights up again. What an amazing bug that is! I am so very happy to see a bug like that!
 
Firefly on Finger
 
I learned to how to read in Oak Lawn. I could already read, but I didn’t know how to read.
 
One day, I am sitting in the back seat of the car. (It is a black-and-white De Soto the same age that I am.)
 
1956 Black and White De Soto
 
We are waiting to go somewhere, and the car is nice and warm, and I am reading my favorite book. It is a board book, and it is about Mrs. Squirrel. I like the story, and I like the pictures a lot. They show real squirrels with clothes on. (They might not be really real, but the pictures are photographs, not drawings, and Mrs. Squirrel has fur, and shiny eyes.)

In one part of the story, a friend of Mrs. Squirrel’s compliments her new hat. I can see why. It is a lovely straw hat with a wide brim and colored flowers. The friend says to Mrs. Squirrel:

“That is a be-a-u-ti-ful hat!”

That is when I learn how to read. I can hear the voice of Mrs. Squirrel’s friend, and now I understand that bigger words have pieces. You can read them by reading all the pieces.

Today, every time I write the word beautiful, I always remember that discovery. In my head, I still hear each word piece, and I see again Mrs. Squirrel wearing her nice new hat.
 
She looks very pretty!
 

A Lovely Hat But Not Mrs Squirrel

Not My Mrs. Squirrel, But Another Lovely Hat/Squirrel Combination


 
SADDENDUM
 
Revisiting the Oak Lawn house when older, I learn that the wide, wide attic stairs are a tiny pull-down ladder barely a foot wide, with each step only four inches deep. To a two-year-old, objects may be bigger than they appear in later life.
 
Attempting to revisit the Oak Lawn house when even older, I fail. A tornado has left the houses on either side untouched, but removed all evidence of my home. The front-yard well that provided water to the family of my early memories is now an empty dry hole.
 

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58 Comments

  1. Paul

     /  2015/04/19

    Wonderful story OB. Love it. I went back to my childhood home as an adult and everything was so small. And the feeling wasn’t there OB – the warmth and friends and amazement at life. The safety and excitement – it lives on in my mind but no longer in a place on this Earth,

    Excellent post OB.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, Paul! I am always pleased when receiving compliments from such a fine writer : ) and most especially when rating an “excellent”!
      🙂

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  2. you have a lot of early memories – especially form two years old – what a mind you must have!! and I like the choice of photos – added to the mood of the reflections

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Thank you. What’s left of my mind is leaking away, which is part of why I’m writing these things down now. I said to someone just yesterday that, once I am finished recording all of these long-pondered memories, I may have nothing left about which to “converse” (Aspie version). May have to learn how to actually converse (neurotypical non-air-quote version).

      Liked by 1 person

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      • well that is funny – and true – because your blogging will take on a different hue once you move away form that reflection and sharing style – which by the way – I like that you do it with flow and it is not encumbered down with too much detail at all – and I hope I make it back for more of them – 🙂

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        • I am laughing, because I think this is the first time in my life someone has accused me of not bogging them down in too much detail.

          But don’t mistake me–I’ll take the compliment: That’s me: Super-Smooth Detail Dropper.
          😉

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          • well I had to come back and double check the post to see why i said that about the nice flow (cos I do remember feeling that as I skimmed this earlier) – and so coming back – here is part of your strength – each story is about 200 words – and then it just all weaves in – like the bug story rolled right into the reading – and seriously – I visit a good number of blogs (even though I am still finding my way with blog world) and some authors who reflect really are loquacious and yawn-yawn –

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            • Oh! I’m glad I came back, for I had missed this comment of yours before. I love this comment! The characteristic of my writing which was always pointed out as one of its worst weaknesses by teachers–my failure to tie all the separate bits together with a unified theme and smooth transitions–is part of what saves it from tremendous tedium in the online world. Good to know! Thank you!
              🙂

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            • :0 thx for the reply – have a great day and thx again for the “other” feedback
              💐💐💐

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            • Thank YOU for your great input. I’m finally off to sleep (I sincerely hope)–I’m west coast U.S.–but will carry out your great day wish in a few more hours, and I wish it back your way now. : ) Nighty-day, or whatever is appropriate.
              😉

              Liked by 1 person

            • thx and sweet dreams

              Like

  3. I really like this, Babe. It’s amazing what one can remember, and you’ve included all the right kind of details. I remember what it was like to return to the home in which I grew up and realize that my bed was gone. (My parents gave it to someone else). Now, the house itself is a wrecked shell. Heartbreaking.

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. Great story!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  5. M-R

     /  2015/04/20

    You are VERY lucky, Babe, to have so many memories of when you were very little. I have none. And I don’t know why.

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  6. They are such wonderful memories and I loved the way you wrote them.

    I found out that someone had demolished my childhood home. I went to see if anything was left but it had all been cleared away – the tree I used to sit in, my mother’s favourite jacaranda tree. All gone and a big monstrosity of a house in its place. The people who owned it saw me and invited me in. They showed me pictures of the old house they took before they demolished it and I discovered that the man had been taught by my father at university. I think it made it easier to accept that the house was gone because there were still memories of it being held.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Thank you, MoSY–esp. for that “loved”.
      Seeing your home not only gone, but destroyed because someone considered it not good enough–that’s a double blow. (In the case of your mom’s tree, a low one: I love jacaranda, too!) At least the new owners did their best to cushion it. Funny about the coincidence. the man having been your dad’s student.

      (Maybe not SUCH a big coincidence. I don’t know how widely-felt your dad’s teachings are/were. Perhaps he is/was the head of Scientology? )

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  7. longchaps2

     /  2015/04/20

    We also had a weeping willow in our yard as children. They do seem to sweep you under them and shelter you like a hug. Great stories 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. How you managed to tap into your inner child (sorry, such a cliche term but somehow apropos to this post) so brilliantly is beyond me. But you have and that’s why it resonates so with me. It has the ring of truth. Beautiful post, sweet little Babe.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • I can’t take credit for brilliance, Barbara, although I would love to bask in your praise! These memories were preserved by my early eidetic autism as if in amber–but more like maple syrup, it turns out, for I first tapped into them and captured their deliciousness in the midst of my three-year divorce, as a way of escape, and now it’s as if I am reduced to the bottle’s bottom. I had assumed they would retain their same flavor forever, for they had done so for decades. But now I find that while I still retain the body awareness of sitting in the back seat of the De Soto and holding the board book, I remember the lovely warmth, I see my bare legs past the book… Mrs. Squirrel’s actual appearance has now become unsure. I see her, but best remember her hat alone. (It was a lovely hat : )

      Liked by 1 person

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      • Don’t try to force it, Babe, memories are tricky like that, I find. They’re resistant to being summoned or frozen in amber/maple syrup (nice analogy there, girl). They have minds of their own, I think. The other day I heard a little girl laugh her head off and from a distance I could have sworn it was Jen. Sounded just like when she was teeny and POW, there came some memories. Isn’t it funny what lurks in the inner recesses of our brains?

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        • It’s exciting. When we all get our chips installed just think! (SWIDT?) (Whoops: This is for you, Kiri: “See what I did there?”)

          Seriously, it is exciting, and relieving, because of the latest Alzheimer research that appears to indicate that those lost memories may be retrievable. Let’s hope.

          Ya’ know, I’m gonna get in on the ground floor of a new business enterprise: “No Regrets”. ‘Cause, if we don’t learn to let go of guilt over past mis-steps now, just THINK when we can’t help but remember every single one we’ve ever made. Yeepers. A new prison of the mind.

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        • So typical. Didn’t respond at all re: The Jen memories. I hope it was the sweetness that lingered, just as mine with those of the boys.

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  9. Wow great writing! There’s no substitute for authenticity.

    Liked by 1 person

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  10. In the second half of my sixth decade, I’m processing a lot of memories at night while I sleep. I believe I now consist of about 95 percent memories and 5 percent miscellaneous. It’s humbling to know that I can’t vouch for the veracity of my memories. I once stumbled upon the big old building where our family’s pediatrician once practiced medicine. (He also made house calls.) The building was a miniature scale model of its previous self. It had been repurposed to sell antiques.

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Obviously, the original building was replaced with a smaller version while you were sleeping. The mean-spirited repurposing was done to imply that you are an antique. Nasty business, all around.
      😉

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  11. Dagnabbit, Babe, I commented here yesterday, and WordPress ate my comment. I had a feeling because you did not comment on my comment as you always do, so I looked back and … so …

    You have something far more important than the physical house still standing for your visit now, Babe. These memories fromthe time you were 2 and on are reads of life clear and prescient then, since and forever. What a stunning place and roster of company it must have been to shape you so. Objects in the rear view mirror of your mind are just as large as they are supposed to be considering their magnitude and magnificence, my friend. That’s what I’ll stamp on my refection of this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • That is SO frustrating when our well-planned comments are eaten, isn’t it, Mark? I don’t see how what you first planned could have surpassed the use of the word “magnificence”, though!

      My parents were happier when I was younger, and I think I was born genetically happy. My younger son, who took after me in many ways, seemed to be as well. I was quite self-entertaining, being more autistic then. I remember being very happy sitting for much of an afternoon doing nothing but watching dust motes float in sunshine.

      Thus, when I was little, until the home environment turned extremely disruptive, I believe I was content much of the time. (Sadly, I think the naturally-inclined happiness of that one son, and the acquired happiness of my other, also suffered a downward slide due to disruptive environmental factors, although for different reasons than mine.)

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      • I am glad that you had satisfaction in the early years, Babe, even through self entertainment. The subsequent upheaval, God bless you for getting through that.

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  12. Aw! A fantastic trip down memory lane this is Babe, and that illustration of the weeping willow tree’s real be-au-ti-ful, dreamy and surreal! One can totally just get lost in there, sooo magical! 😊

    Who feels a certain kinda excitement at the grim prospect of their abodes getting razed and gutted down by fire Phoenix?! That will most definitely be….YOU?! 😨 Really?! Whatever were you thinking?! Jeez! 😞😛

    Thanks for sharing Squirrel lover, makes for a pretty delightful read with a chilled glass of water in tow! 😄😉

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    • Thank you for that “delightful”, Yemi! Guess that chilled glass of water is to help quench that roof ;). Perhaps my fascination at that fire was prescience, seeing my parents’ future fates if they did not mend their future ways? (Or mine, if I wished this fate upon them :o?)

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  13. Perhaps! We’ll never really know now would we?! 😞😛🙉

    Plus, that chilled glass of water was to quench my thirst and douse the anxiety I felt building up, at the realization that you thought it’d be real ‘interesting’, for the old house to just….burst into flames 💣and burn?! 😲🙊

    So this is the part where I go get a refill, can’t deal! 😛😜

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  14. When I post memories of my next childhood home, it will be very interesting to hear your reaction–and you will know what I mean when that happens… (suspenseful music rises)

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Uhhhhhh! 👻 I’m soooo beyond scared straight right now Babe; shaking in ma bootz!!! Can you just tell by my disposition already?! 😊😁😂😄😈

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  15. I just read and read and thoroughly enjoyed the post. You have the writer’s craft.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Malcolm, may I claim I have been stunned into silence so long due to the great impact of your compliment? It would be a lie, but may I blame that rather all the feeble excuses that led to my rudeness?

      Thank you so very much for one of the most touching compliments I have ever received.

      –O. Babe

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      Reply

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