I was ten going on eleven when my parents decided they'd suffered enough in the big city of Atlanta, cashed in their chips and moved "back home" to the real South, aka rural South Carolina. Never having lived anywhere else I could remember in my born days except suburban Atlanta (which is about as Southern as New Hampshire, truth be told), and, as stubborn and impervious-to-anyone-else's-good-ideas as any almost eleven-year-old was then, is now, and forever will be, I faced my parents' decision with the commensurate amount (a great big hairy huge ton) of pre-pubescent angst and trepidation. Oh, and fury. Let us not forget the fury.
The first days in our new town served to validate my fears and parent-centered resentment, as rural SC is a far cry from the big city in ever-so-many ways, not the least of which was that I couldn't understand much of what was said by th'natives. They wus all, "Who y'lak? Tahgers er Gamecocks?" (Being a dyed-in-the-wool Tahger fan from the git-go, Ah don't thank Ah'd e'em heard of a Gamecock yet. The Tiger and the Gamecock are the mascots of the two major football teams, er, colleges, in the state, by the way.) An' "Ya'll been ta Quaincy's fer supper yet? Hooooooooooo doggies 'ems good eatin'!" So, in addition to having left my BFFs Mary and Lynne, who shared my love for Lick 'Em Ades, Sean Cassidy and wearing tennis socks with the lil fluffy balls that matched our tops, I was also livin' in a FER'N Country where I din't speak tha language.
I was skeert.
However. There WAS my new house. And despite the freakish glowing orange carpet in the family room and the broken air conditioning in July, in South Carolina, (which reminds me of the fact that, not satisfied with dragging me from the cultured and refined city out to cow-patty-n'-ho-cake-ville, my mother had immediately set about the task of bringing me down from my citified high horse by dragging me to our new town's library each afternoon, whereupon she climbed up the wooden stairs to the loft, plopped and stretched herself bottom-out over the huge library clock - tick tock tick tock - on the cushioned bench along the railing that overlooked the entire first floor, and proceeded to TAKE A NICE LONG SNOOZE. Oh Heavens Above... the Humiliation!) the new house had a feature or two that took some of the sting out of becoming a hick. For example there were
My Bathroom - I shared it with my sister but it was ATTACHED to MY BEDROOM. And... it had TWO, people... TWO SINKS. And those sinks... were TURQUOISE. As was the tub. In there was also this COOL metal shelf that revolved and that you could actually turn so that it was COMPLETELY hidden inside the WALL. Oh the treasures I could hide in that thing!! This is the bathroom, coincidentally, that my NEW BFF Marie and I would hide away in, fill the sinks with water with a squirt of nail polish remover on top and LIGHT THE WHOLE THING ON FIRE. And the turquoise bathtub, which is still there, and still turquoise (she said proudly) is the same one in which my friend Angie and I played dentist with the olive green Waterpik, using a stainless steel mixing bowl on a footstool as the spit sink. Oh that bathroom saw some of my most creative moments.
My Bedroom - Which housed my wildly-coveted-and-anticipated CANOPY BED, a set of faux satin sheets so slippery I had to hold onto the headboard when I rolled over so I didn't fall out, and a closet big enough to hold all of my clothes, shoes, junk AND a secret hidden make-up vanity where I spent countless hours making myself beautiful in case Sean Cassidy or Michael Jackson should stumble upon me and fall in love.
My Dad's Desk - Which was built RIGHT INTO THE WALL, creating a little cubby where the chair went, under which was conveniently placed a heat/AC vent that was SHARED with the living room, affording me the ability to sit very discreetly and listen in on my sister's private conversations with her friends and the occasional young gentleman caller on the other side of the wall, but only inches from my inquisitive ear.
Oh Yes I Did!
The Huge Rocks in the Side-Yard - Which sadly eventually became the headstones of several beloved pets over the years, but started out as a perfect place for pre-teen brooding, daydreaming, sulking and secret-telling.
I brooded and sulked at my parents' complete lack of concern for my misery over being transplanted for a couple of months, until I looked up and realized that I was more at home in that house and in that town than I'd ever been in Atlanta. I'd made the best friends I'd ever had, and most of them are STILL my best friends, over 25 years later. I slept better in my new room, where the thick canopy of elderly oaks that nearly touched the roof above me blocked out every splinter of light in the night sky, creating the perfect foil for a thousand fireflies and the flashlights of neighborhood kids playing kick-the-can. I walked a mere block to my new school - one with teachers who made me feel welcome and important, and friends who didn't know much about Sean Cassidy but loved the Tahgers and even wore brilliant orange overhauls on Friday to attest to it! I celebrated my birthday late that summer with my new crew of girls - we danced on the wacky orange carpet to the music of Star Wars, using bananas for light sabers and giggling like we'd known one another forever. I realized now that I had a home filled with new memories, and the promise of a million more.
And now, when I go back to visit my parents in that same house, and I tuck Bean into my cozy old bed (the canopy's gone, but it's the same bed) after a hot bath in the turquoise tub, I am thankful for the move they made (and the moves they HAVEN'T made since then), and for the little town and the friends I made that continue to remind me who I really am, where I REALLY came from. In the quiet stillness of a hot summer afternoon, I can easily remember the feeling I had of safety, peace and belonging, lying on my canopy bed in my shady, cool bedroom, reading and thinking and planning. I can still smell Mom's steak and gravy cooking in the kitchen and hear the whistle of the afternoon train as it rolls through the heart of town. Those memories define me. My childhood. Home.