houses i have lived in

Updated with photos

So far, I have written about four houses I have lived in, and I plan to do more. When we moved back to Georgia, I figured I might as well take pictures of the ones that I can. Tonight I updated two of those posts with photos of what the houses look like today.

The brown house I lived in when I was 7. Quite obviously, it hasn't been lived in for years. It's too bad, because it could've been one of those great houses like I love had it been kept up with.

The house by the graveyard is where we lived when I was 5. It's in a small neighborhood and has been taken care of just fine. In fact, the carport that the neighbor boy used to pee on has been enclosed (can't see it in the photo, though, sorry) - couldn't have been a bad idea.

There's also a house in town that I have been told my great-grandfather built. I haven't seen it in years and have no idea what it looks like these days. It's up on a hill and difficult to get to if one is trying to be inconspicuous (which I often try to be). But I'm going to attempt to catch that one as well (feels like I'm going hunting).

Ok, am I the only one this obsessed with houses? Hmmmm...


Houses I have lived in: the bungalow

It came with about a hundred chickens.

The bungalow was the first house R and I lived in when we married. I called it "the bungalow," but it was really a single-wide trailer. My dad let us live there rent free. The previous tenant had gotten himself a flock of chickens, but no coop. He left a giant bag of feed for them. My dad had him come and get them, but there was no way to catch them all. So we had chickens for a while. I adored them. I loved watching our indoor-only cats chirping at them through the screen door. I looked forward to feeding them, having them gather around me. I was in awe over their pretty colors, and I often mimicked their unique chicken sounds along with them.

The bungalow was way out in the country. Way out and then set back off the road where no one could see it. My commute to work was an hour and a half. The second day I was 5 minutes late because of an accident on the highway, and my boss called me into the office to talk about it. She said that I needed to leave earlier in the morning and to be there on time. Punctuality is the most important thing in the world. That night, I woke up at 3am and saw that the bathroom garbage can was full to overflowing, so the next day I called in sick and the day after that I quit. I'd never quit a job without another one lined up.

Everything was brown. Brown outside and brown inside. Brown carpet, brown walls, brown cabinets. Brown. There was no real hallway. It was pretty much one room after another all in a row. Bedroom, bathroom, eat-in kitchen, living room, bedroom with half bath. The roof was flat. It was unnecessary to lock the doors out there nestled in the woods, but we did it anyway. Locking the door reminded me of unscrewing a child-proof medicine bottle.

Eventually, we were down to three chickens: Baby Girl Chicken, White Chicken, and Buddy. Baby Girl began nesting in the safest place she could find - the burn barrel. Someone, at some time, had gotten hold of a big, metal drum and put it in the yard to burn whatever household waste would burn. The center had rusted out and disintegrated, so the top half rested lopsided on the bottom. It was full of ashes, but had some broken down boards from an old dresser at the top of it that had not burned. The hen sat there. When you came close, she caused a huge ruckus. Eventually, I found her abandoned eggs, none of them fertilized. But a month or so later, she was walking around the yard with a fluffy, yellow baby chick. White Chicken and Buddy stayed with Baby Girl and the three of them formed a little triangle around the chick for protection. That was the only day we saw the chick, though, and soon we were down to just White Chicken. When we moved out, back toward Atlanta, White Chicken was still around, roaming the woods. I wished him luck, I really did, but I knew he'd make some hawk a nice dinner one day.

***

More houses I have lived in here.


Houses I have lived in: the garage apartment

In the mid- to late-90s, I lived in a garage apartment built in the 1920s in the historic distric of town. It had many things to love and hate about it.

It had pretty hardwood floors, a picturesque setting among pecan trees, cool built-in cabinets in the kitchen, was five minutes from work, and was across the street from my best friend.

It also had no central heat or air, no doors on the rooms, the biggest flying roaches you've ever seen, mice, one tiny, musty closet, and was across the street from my best friend.

Being a garage apartment, it was a little box of five rooms: living room, bedroom, bathroom, "dining room," and kitchen. The kitchen, living room, and bedroom were all the same size. It had a high ceiling and bumpy plaster walls. I paid $400/mo. It had room in the kitchen for a washer and dryer, which I had, but the wiring was old and my dryer's plug didn't fit the outlet. I offered to split the cost to change it but my landlord said no, so I washed my clothes and hung them to dry.

When I lived there I owned a full set of Fiestaware. I had four colors: small yellow bowls, bigger blue bowls, orange breadplates, and turquoise plates. They looked cool through the windows of the white cabinets. The window over the kitchen sink was wide and I put an assortment of glass bottles on the ledge. It always made me happy in the morning to see the multicolors of glass against the mature, green trees in the backyard.

I was so poor when I live there. It was laughable. I worked a lot of overtime, but it was never enough. I remember going to my grandparents' house for Sunday dinner and gorging on fried chicken, beans, mashed potatoes, sweet tea and pie. I used to joke that I was going to store it all in my hump for the week, like a camel. Sometimes my mother or grandmother would slip me $5 or $20 and I would almost cry. I remember once making dinner with all I had left in the house - spaghetti. When I went to drain the noodles, my hand slipped and all the noodles slid into the sink. I washed it down the sink and went to bed; there was nothing else to do. This was not the happiest period in my life.

For air cooling, I had fans and a window unit in the bedroom. I bought heavy curtains and put them over the doors to try to keep the air contained to the bedroom, or to the bedroom and living room. I would sleep without covers of any sort. If I left the windows open at night, the palmetto bugs were worse, so I kept them closed and the air conditioner on. At 3am one morning, I woke up to a roach running across my leg. I got up and turned on all the lights - I couldn't possibly think of sleeping until he was dead.

For heat, I had a gas heater in the living room. It barely helped and cost a fortune. When I sat at my desk, I could feel the cold seeping through the walls. I would come home for lunch to find the cats snuggling together under the blankets on the bed. I got an electric blanket and would sleep with all three cats piled up on me.

I'm trying to think of good things that happened there. It's difficult for me to think about that time. I liked living there, but I hated my life. I hated my job. Actually, I loved my job but the people I worked for were ... not the most honorable. I had a boyfriend, but it was not a good relationship. I was mean to people; I was angry. I would cry myself to sleep and cry again when I woke up. I'd cry all the way to work and then keep it together for eight or ten hours and then cry all the way home. It was when I started actually waking myself up in the middle of the night crying that I realized I needed to change everything about my life or else. So I found a job an hour away that paid more - he hired me right on the spot because I already knew all the proofreading marks and gave me $1 more an hour than I'd asked for. At the time, it was the happiest day in my adult life. Sweet freedom! I commuted for over a year and then I finally moved when I got my tax refund.

So ok, yeah, it sucked. But I know that if things hadn't happened the way that they did, I wouldn't have taken the path I took that has led me to where I am today - which is a really, really good place.


Houses I have lived in: the house by the graveyard

the house by the graveyard

I think that the house by the graveyard was the second house we lived in when we moved down South from DC, but I have no memory of the first. When we moved into this house I was wearing plaster casts on my legs from surgery on my feet to reset the bones so I wouldn't walk (so) pigeon-toed. My father would carry me outside and sit me on the bench in the yard. This is where I met Wayne and Wendell, the boys next door who were always fighting. The first time I met them, Wendell had an eyepatch and Wayne was chasing him around the yard. Wayne finally caught him, threw him on the ground and bent his legs in unusual ways to hurt him.

My brother would wiggle loose during diaper changes and escape to the yard, running around so very free. One day we went to Dipper Dan's and when we got home, B licked his ice cream and the scoop fell to the ground. He picked it up but it was covered in dirt and pine needles.

I started first grade in this house. My hair was very long and wavy with bangs. We had a succession of small plastic boxes of Mexican jumping beans. I hid my potatoes in my napkin. The floors were wood. My parents had a waterbed.

Another neighbor boy from down the block used to pee on our porch. Whenever I would find him there he'd run home, always faster than I. One day, his mom had the screen door locked. She stood in the kitchen, laughing at him as I beat him on the back with my balled-up fists and he cried. "Serves you right!" she said.

My bedroom window looked out on the church's graveyard. Wayne told me that when it thundered, it was the Devil beating his wife. I never slept easily there and sometimes I'd wake to my door closed and be afraid to get up and open it again. When I'd ask my parents, they'd swear they hadn't touched it.

My brother had a coconut cake for his second birthday. I hated coconut and didn't eat any. We had a poster of Richard Nixon in the kitchen. His head took up most of the poster, his face bright red, his body tiny and unnecessary. I studied this poster hard the night my father told me to take an adult vitamin I couldn't swallow. Finally, I hid it under my tongue and spit it down the sink drain when he walked out of the room to check on my brother.

In this house by the graveyard, I had a really great umbrella. It was clear with accents of red, white and blue. For my birthday, I got a Barrel of Monkeys and pink soap on a rope. My mother worked during the day at a drugstore. My father worked at night, but I don't know where. He slept in the morning and I played with my brother, trying to keep him quiet. Then my father would get up and get ready. We'd walk to my grandparents' house and then he'd walk to work. When I would get thirsty along the way, he'd tell me to put a pebble under my tongue.

I'd put on my full slip on Saturday mornings and play Isis while we watched cartoons. My brother would play Hercules. We'd jump around from sofa to chairs and save the universe.

In the house by the graveyard, I used to lie in the yard under the big tree. One day I was laying there, looking up at the sky through the branches, and I felt the curve of the earth. I felt the earth turn, just for the shortest, smallest moment.


Houses I have lived in: the brown house

v the brown house 1

When I think of the brown house, I think of a book called Life Without Water which, while not an exact mirror, is a book that comes close to giving me the feeling of my childhood. We lived in the brown house when I was 6 and 7 - I know this because my mom cut off all my hair the night before I started second grade and I remember being in that living room, pretending that all my classmates were admiring my new 'do.

The brown house sits in the woods, a yard full of cactus. Around that house, my little brother was attacked by a swarm of bees and a man put tobacco "juice" on the welts, my father found the tail of a rattlesnake, my kitten got stuck in a tree and my mom parked the car under it, climbed on the roof, and got her down. In that house, I used to dance with a fairy wand to Tubular Bells (before it was used in the soundtrack to The Exorcist, ruining it for me forever), my brother broke the head off his Scooby-Doo-shaped soap and cried, and my parents decided to divorce. "Decided" being a really polite word for how it actually went down.

The brown house is there still, abandoned.

v the brown house 2

I pass it on the way to my mother's house. The water heater did not work. My mom would boil a couple of pots of water, and my brother and I would take a bath together in water three inches deep. Clawfoot tub. Tiles were coming loose in the bathroom and mushrooms grew in the squares left behind.

In this house I learned how to pop my knuckles. Around this house a boy first told me the things people do when they have sex. It was in this house that I listened to the rain as it hit the metal roof. In this house I wrapped up against the chill in a quilt handmade by my grandmother, and listened to the arguments as I fell asleep.

I played in the neighbor's yard a lot - no cactus there, and she was a kind, elderly woman who insisted I call her Mamaw. She had these really tall pine trees that looked to me like they were arranged to mark off the rooms of a house. So I played house there, without any actual walls, doors, windows. But they were there; I could see them.

The brown house had a double fireplace - one side in the kitchen, one side in the living room, where I would play the record player and dance around the room with my wand. I had a pretty brown velvet skirt that was too big. Someone had given it to me, a hand-me-down. It was too big and then summer came and I put it in the closet. When winter came again I thought about that skirt and couldn't wait to wear it. When I tried to put it on, it was too small.

The floors were wood. The ceilings were high. The walls were bumpy plaster. There was a window over my parents' bedroom door. I threw balls through it. One day, my brother hit his head on the corner of the china cabinet that came with the house. My mom was at work. My father worked at night. He cleaned my brother's wound and told me to clean up the blood that had dripped on the floor.

Things came with the house. The china cabinet, a kitchen table, a cat we called Goldie. We took Goldie with us when we left, but she ran away.

When it was warm/cool enough, my family would walk down the dirt road to watch the sunset. I remember being happy. We would walk past the old graves scattered through the woods and the big house that was slowly being consumed by kudzu. The bats would come out and my brother and I would run around screaming, confusing them terribly. I remember the river there at the end of the dirt road. I remember a fiery orange and raspberry sky.