Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Long Way from There to Here

I'm leaning on a Holidailies writing prompt today. Three loaded questions (two in the second sentence) stare at me from the Holidailies portal today.

Do you still live in the place where you grew up? How far away are you now, and why?
I was born in Texas. I live in Texas. I'm a few hundred miles from the farm where I spent the first ten years of my life. I'm so, so far away. And whoa! That pesky "Why?"

My parents spent a couple of years in a house near my grandparents (his parents) on a different farm. The war came. My sister came. My dad had a brief stint in the army. Somehow my parents ended up on a little black land farm north of Dallas that her parents owned in a little house built, I think, by my maternal grandfather. I remember the house; my makeshift bedroom in a tiny enclosed screen porch when I got older; the livestock (milk cows, pigs, sheep and lambs, the occasional goat or horse); my dad milking and my mother making butter while I drank warm cow's milk from a half pint bottle; crops of cotton and corn. My dad had a job besides the farm as a hospital attendant at the Veteran's Hospital. There were a few other farms with houses on the dirt road to our farm. One belonged to a family with one daughter, between my sister and I. One belonged to that little girl's grandmother.

The picture is from 1954. I had begged for the toy tractor you see, but I remember that it wasn't as satisfying to ride on the gravel (there was no pavement anywhere on that farm save a tiny porch) as it was in the appliance store where it was sold. (I don't know why the appliance store had ride-on toys, but they did. It was a place where we bought refrigerators and washing machines and the owner was a friend of my parents.) The older girl near me is my sister. Yeah, matching dresses. The other child is, I think, a cousin of mine. The auto was one of several Oldsmobiles that my parents owned at various times. (My dad was friends with everyone at the Olds dealership, too.) We are in the driveway of the farmhouse. I remember the toy pith helmet. Don't know where we got it, but it was one of my playthings for a long time. One of not too many. There was a BB gun. An Erector Set. They would come when I was a little older. We had a dollhouse built by the granddad who built the house and some dime store furnishings for it. We imagined toothpaste caps were glasses and made toys out of other detritus. I'm not sure if we'd gotten a TV at this point. We had a few books, not many. Soon, my mother would go back to school to get her college degree and teaching certificate. In about four years, we'd leave the farm for a small town where she would teach.

The house of my childhood is gone (burned down) and the land is disected by a major highway.

I don't feel like the child who lived there really. I'm in a high rise condo where I could barely discern the storm last night (although we raced through the rain and sleet to get home from the restaurant). On that farm, in my tiny room with windows on three sides and a huge pecan tree swaying ten yards or so from it, the weather was immediate even when you were inside.

I don't feel like the child who longed for that ride on toy tractor or treasured the few toys. I don't feel like the child who drank that warm from the cow milk on the basement steps, watching my mother make butter. I don't feel like the child who invented worlds from sticks and stones or made a fence with a broad top and a discarded key into a motorcycle taking her on dream adventures.

I don't feel like the child who would dream of owning books and toys and all sorts of things that she would one day find she could afford. I don't feel like the child who made dream rocket gadgets from a cardboard box and discarded lids and such and then would one day find that amazing things that she could barely dream of (computers, cell phones, music players) were real and easy to obtain.

I don't feel like the child who believed in Santa and also shook every gift under the tree she'd help decorate with foil icicles and a collection of long-held decorations.

On the other hand, I don't relate so well to the adult who dined on steak tartare and other gourmet dishes and shared expensive wines with friends last night.

I am miles and miles from the farm. The why is tangled with the desires of the modern world, first of my parents then my own. I am nowhere near the farm. But am I home? The path from there to here feels pre-ordained. But surely many choices were made. I even vaguely remember making some of them, fueled by lists of 'pros' and 'cons' that were soon discarded and replaced with a gut decision.

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