Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The White House in two parts. Part 1

You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it's all right.

-Maya Angelou (1928--)

We lived in an old, white, Victorian style house in Pilot Point, Texas for a few years growing up. My brother, sister and I refer to it as, “The White House.” It sat on the corner of two old streets who apparently had no use for curbs or smooth sidewalks. She was one of a dozen stately homes who remember eras of this country that have been decidedly shellacked or bulldozed. Our house was likely known as the Village Tart with her leaded glass windows, voluptuous red, painted porch that wrapped itself around the front and down the side of the house, like lines on lady’s panty hose disappearing behind the hem of her skirt. The front staircase boasted a fine banister that stretched the full length of the staircase. Windows spilled light through the balusters into the two story foyer. She left plenty to the imagination, however, with her over-indulgence of doors and unexpected rooms here and there.

We moved in as a family of four and then Seth was born. I was five years old. I cried, HOWLED in the hospital waiting room when my dad informed us with a wide grin “It’s a boy!” I was utterly disappointed in my parents. I thought the sonogram pictures were a threat. I hadn’t taken them seriously. I insisted they send him back.

And then, probably against their better judgment, they let me hold Seth. He was sweet and small (He would probably still fit in all of my doll clothes…) I decided to forgive him for being male. So before we left the hospital, I ditched my Cabbage Patch doll and adopted my brother as my very own baby. My mother would race me to his cradle when he cried, for fear that I would a) suffocate him as I climbed in to comfort him, or b) drop him as I used his receiving blankets to pull him toward me and then tipped the cradle over to one side so that he rolled into my waiting arms.

The old, wooden cradle was in the room off of the kitchen. There was no clear definition of this room. I can only imagine the headaches it created for real estate agents showing the house. It boasted several windows (more than perhaps were entirely necessary if you didn’t fall into the screened-in porch category,) a back door, a back staircase, a wood burning stove, the cradle, and a few odd chairs milling about the room, like half a dozen introverts at a cocktail party mumbling contrived “How do you do’s,” unsure of what to do with themselves.

Those chairs came in handy one day when a mouse snuck in the house and holed up behind the stove. My mother, sister, and I leapt on top of them, held hostage by the 14 ounce rodent. We had an argument about whether or not mice knew how to climb trees and/or chair legs, as we watched my Dad chase the little sucker around the room with my mother’s broom. It took a while. Long enough that I had switched teams before the end of it. In the beginning, he was a fanged, furry intruder full of malcontent and scabies. But as he skittered around the room, I identified with him. He was afraid and small. He became a little fairytale mouse, confused and in need of a catchy tune and a teaspoon of understanding. I thought we should let him live. He wouldn’t eat much and I was sure my Dad could file down his fangs and give him all the necessary inoculations. I imagined him with a miniature rhinestone studded collar sporting a brass tag etched with his name, Hubert, and our phone number, lest he get lost… Whap! Whap, whap, whap! I’m not sure it ended quickly or painlessly for Hubert only that it ended. And my mother bought a new broom.


I have been considering the idea of home, lately. The White House is the first one I remember well.

I remember the dream my mother woke me from on my first day of Kindergarten, the Weeping Willow in the front yard my sister and I anointed as the headquarters of our various secret societies, the swing set in the backyard… It’s also where I first felt the sting of loss when our cat, Annie, was killed by a neighbor’s cats. That house holds my first memories of being sexually assaulted by my grandpa. I was maybe four or five.

My grown up mind has a hard time reconciling the good and the bad, the duality of home for the little girl I once was.

I still think of home as a mother who sees me coming from far off, gathers her skirts and runs to meet me. She scoops me up and holds me close in a warmth that isn’t lost.
Or maybe this is what I hope for my own girls.

stay tuned for part 2


flutter said...

you are so rich with your words

Jodi Anderson said...


painted maypole said...

home is never simple, I'm afraid. And certainly not with your history.

this is a beautiful post.

Christine said...


amazing how this simple word can hide so mean so much--pain, joy, fear, nostalgia....

and i LOVE how your house was the "Village Tart."