Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Take Me Back Tuesday

When I think about my childhood and the cherished memories of growing up, the single most common thought is the house my beloved grandparents lived in and all the memories associated with their house. Every single time, that is what comes to mind.

I lost my grandmother 23 years ago and my grandfather shortly after that. In fact, that whole side of my family are all gone now, but the memories and feelings that evoke from just the single thought of their home are so strong at times it is overwhelming.

Usually twice a year, I visit the town my grandparents lived in and take flowers to the graves of my loved ones who are gone now. The drive alone is two hours from my home, but the trip is always a whole days experience. Bless my husbands heart, he is always ever patient, as we drive from one end of town to the other.

Street by street, store by store, memory by memory we do the same thing every time. There is never a time I make this trip that I don't go by my grandparents home. Sometimes I stop and just sit and look at the house, sometimes I just drive by. I always have the feeling they will just walk out the front door at any minute, my grandparents that is. Of course I know that is not possible, but it is a thought I always have. The house always draws me to it in a way that I have had a hard time explaining, so I don't even try. But I don't make this trip down south without going by this house, it just is not in me to do so. So many memories, not only associated with my grandparents home, but also the town they lived in their whole lives.

My grandparents front yard, this was in April 1963, I was 13 months old.

I remember as a young girl the thrill I felt riding in my papaw's 1940's something...Willis Jeep. He had this old jeep and he'd take me riding in it through town. The jeep had no top, no doors and certainly no seat belts but is did hold an amazing fascination with me as did my grandfather. On such outings, one of the first places I would beg him to take me was down Wood Street, it was the single most mesmerizing street in the whole town for a young girl.

Wood street was for all practical purposes was a short street filled with small little buildings that housed "beer joints" and pool halls which was off the main drag downtown.

This was the late 1960's and sadly in those days, I still remember that African Americans lived on one side of town, and Wood street was on that side of town, just south of downtown. I am not talking about a large metropolitan city, this was a small town in south Texas, so the population of the town during this time frame was not too large, everyone knew everyone for the most part, and everyone certainly knew my grandfather. I can still remember the pride that filled my heart in the fact my papaw knew so many people, and that everyone he met genuinely seemed to love him and respect him in a way that is hard to understand.

My grandpa, my Auntie and me, this was 1964.

So of course, being the rebel I was, Wood street was the first place I wanted to go. I knew my mom and grandmother did not a approve of me going, but that was exactly where I wanted to go. He'd always grin and look over at me and say, "Little mama, Don't tell your mother." Well, that was always the first thing out of my mouth when we got home, "We went to Wood Street". And every time my grandma and mom in unison would protest rather loudly....I'd just laugh and look at my papaw...he'd always be laughing too.

My grandpa played in a band for as far back as I remember, he played the Saxophone. I always felt like he was so very important.

For a young girl of six or seven, this was a magical and mystical place. I remember Jazz music and laughter flowed loudly from the buildings, as we'd slowly make our way down the street in that old jeep. I can remember the smells of food being cooked that made my mouth water and beg to get out and go inside one of these little places. Of course we never did that, but Oh, how I wanted to.

I remember the people that filled the sidewalks, they seemed happy and waved a friendly wave and shouted greetings to my grandfather. I remember everyone seemed to smoke cigarettes or cigars. I can remember as we would make our way down the street, my eyes would take in every single sight they could. The open doors gave a glimpse of dark rooms filled with smoke and sometimes a glimpse of neon signs and no matter how hard I strained to see what exactly was behind the old screen doors on these buildings, I could never see enough to satisfy my curiosity...I could always hear the laughter from inside the buildings, but never knew what caused the laughter. For me, it was a magical, forbidden place...a special placed that only my grandfather shared with me. I can remember thinking that when I was a grown up, I was going to come there and find out what all the music, food and laughter was about, and I could hardly wait.

Of course, that never happened. A few years ago as we drove the streets of this town like we do every time I go there, we discovered the abandoned, boarded up buildings along this street lay in a pile of rubble and all that was left was the street sign. I seemed the city cleared the street of the abandoned buildings and nothing remained but the sidewalks and over grown weeds. Those jazz filled buildings that held such a mystery for me were gone, it was really shocking. We drove down the street at my insistence at a very slow pace, I rolled down the window of the truck and just looked at the open space with forlorn and sadness. And I promise you, in a fleeting second, the sights, smells, and sounds flooded my memory, and transported me if only for a second back to when I was a little girl and I could feel the magic again. It's funny how a place or in this case, a street, which I am sure my mom would think I had no business holding such a fascination with is such a part of the sweet memories of my childhood. It is really unexplainable.

And unexplainable has always been the way I feel as I drive by my grandparents house, even to this day. It looks exactly the same as it did when my grandparents lived there, with the exception of a new gold mailbox.....and yes, I miss the old black one that was always on the front of the house, the gold one looks as if it does not belong.

This past November, my aunt went with me to take flowers to the cemetery. And like always, I drove through the town, saw all the usual places I like to see, and drove of course by my grandparents house. Only this time, with my husband not with me, I told my aunt I was going to stop and get out. Unlike my husband, she did not tell me a thousand different reasons why I should stay in the car, she said nothing and waited in the car patiently.

Me, 1964, and said Jeep on the side of the house, when I found this picture I was so pleased it showed the front of the house by the front steps and the jeep I was so fond of.

As I made my way through the front yard, my heart skipped several beats and I felt a heaviness in my chest....part of me was thinking this was really crazy, the other part of me felt like....heck, I don't really know what it felt like...but there was no turning back. I found myself on the front porch and rang the doorbell, I waited.

I ran my fingers along the pinkish brick on the front porch, touched the wood frame of the door, turned around and looked at the street from the front porch, a view I had seen thousands of times during my lifetime, and all of a sudden, I felt a balance in my life, like I had not felt in a long time. The house that held all of my precious memories of the people I loved so very much had made things right again. Sadly, no one was home, and frankly, I had no idea what I would have said if someone had answered the door, but just being on the front porch, touching this house that I had touched so many times in my life suddenly touched my heart and that was enough.

It has always been difficult to explain my attachment to this town, the house, the memories...they are so important to me, for me, they speak of home. But a new song by Miranda Lambert, "The House That Built Me", best sums up my feelings in a way I could never put to words. The message is the same in regards to theme, feelings and connection however the content is a bit different. I think you will better understand My Take Me Back Tuesday with this video. Maybe it will touch you, the way it touches me. Maybe, this Tuesday, it will take you back to a special place in your life too.


  1. It was way too early in the morning for tears CL. What a touching post, I am sure I will think of this all day today. {wiping eyes}

  2. I loved this story & the music video. I feel this same attachment to my old farm house that still stands on FM 920. When I am in town I drive by and stop and just look and let the memories come. Growing up on that 100 acres with my parents, 4 older brothers & a sister was like something out of a storybook. I was so blessed to have been raised this way. Yet... it sure has left a huge void in my heart now that its over.
    I always regretted not taking a mason jar of dirt from the old homestead with me when I left. I'm attached to that land like nothing else. Part of the farm is a housing addition now. That is hard for me. I feel in my heart that land is still mine and they do not belong there.
    I regret that my parents had to sell it. If they hadn't I would be living there now for sure. If I had the money I would buy the old farmhouse and what is left of the land. But there is no way we could ever afford that :*(
    I wish I had more photos of the farm. For whatever reason we didn't take many. Probably couldn't afford to.
    Michelle stopped by for me and walked through it and took pics last year. Its abandonded now. It was hard to look at those photos but I couldn't take my eyes off of them.
    I remember where each and every thing was placed. I remember momma cooking for all of us in that tiny kitchen, Dad and the brothers hauling hay, my sister and I playing in the playhouse my father built us.
    I had a wonderful childhood. I thank God for that.
    Thank you for the memories this morning.
    Now its time for me to pop back into reality and go take care of my house b/c this is my children's time. And this is the house they will remember. Working on building those memories for them.
    Love you!

  3. Dear Suzanne, I know exactly what you mean. I have lived far, far away from my hometown. At times in my life I have been half way around the globe, but the memories I have of that magical place live so vividly in my heart. There are many nights when I go back there in my dreams. I am glad to know that someone else feels as deeply about their childhood home, the home of their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Thank you for sharing your precious memories with us!! Any time you want to take a trip back in time, let me know and I'll be happy to tag along!! See you on Thursday, I must have another vintage thingie around here somewhere!

    Susan and Bentley

  4. Suzanne, I am so very grateful for this post, my family always tells me I live in the past, I really don't but I do treasure my memories of my past because they were happier times.

    This post really made my day today, you inspire me all the time and keep me grounded in thinking I am not the nut my family thinks I am! We may be the only two nuts, you and I but at least we have company! You always Rock!!

  5. I have a lot of memories of my childhood, but nothing I cannot let go. I want your first edition book, autographed when it comes out. One day, and I wish I could see, it is bound to happen. You and number two sister should get together on a book.

  6. I'm so glad you got to experience that special front porch once more.

    Although I'm a country music fan I was never really taken with Miranda Lambert. I saw her in concert once and just was not impressed. A couple of weeks ago I saw this very video and my, how it touched me. I'm taking a different look at this country artist now. And I like what I see in the video.

  7. Suzanne, thank you for sharing this. I confess to a similar affliction. And I shed a tear or three while reading this.

  8. Suzanne,

    I am writing this with tears streaming down my face....you have written the words on paper that I have always felt. You and I are alot alike.
    If you have been to my blog lately you will see I have been stuggling ever since I got back from visiting my hometown....and I have finally figured out why...it is all about what you write here....I lost my folks almost 30 yaers ago, but when I am in Eau Claire, they are right beside me! All of them are, as like you, all of them on that side of my family are gone....I came so close to knocking on my grandparnets house's door this time. But I was afraid it would be different and I can't bear that....but to be able to be in a physical place on this earth where I can feel them with with me is sooo very hard to leave! Thank you for this post Suzanne...you have spoke what is in my heart also! I will be back to read this post again....

  9. Hi Suzanne,
    You wrote a beautiful post that has touched a similar chord with so many of us. I am lucky in that I now live 40 minutes from my hometown. I grew up there, both my parents grew up there and all of my grandparents grew up there. My grandparents have passed away many years ago but I still drive by their houses when I am in town. My parents live in the same house that I grew up in so going to their house is always going home for me.
    Thanks for your beautiful words.

  10. The highest form of flattery. And, you did it so good! I loved this post. A few years ago, I went back home and drove past all the old places. Unfortunately, I wish I hadn't because it was all so changed, and not for the better. Much of it like your Wood St. Anyway, so glad you shared these memories from Way Back or Take Me Back. Lane

  11. I was born and lived in FL until I was 7 years old. I've never been back, and don't think I want to. I've looked at our house on Google Earth, and it doesn't look at all like I remember it. You can't go home again.

  12. Such a sweet post! I have always lived so far from the homes my grandparents lived in.. we all were constant travelers (Military and Airlines) but there are two that hold my heart! I did get back to both of them over the years and I did the same thing.. sat across the street and just looked and remembered!
    Thanks for the stroll back!


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