I was a little girl in glasses who would walk home after school without ever looking up. I knew exactly where I was going. My feet knew the way. I wasn’t sad or lost, I was just thinking, worrying about the rocks that I kicked along the way because I had moved them from what might have been their preferred spot on the road. I imagined the rocks with mothers and bedrooms, and then my big Adidas catapulting them away from home forever. I thought these weird things, and I read a lot.
I would take forever to walk the short way from my grade school to my house, one field and two doors down to the comfort of Cheez Whiz spread on premium salted crackers and orange juice made from powder. It took me so long to make it home that sometimes my mother would pop her head out the door and holler, just to be sure. Only Mr. and Mrs. Baxter, their two much older and therefore worldly kids Ann and Jim and their old orange cat named Socks lived between our house and the school field. We had a cat too, and a dog, and a pet rabbit named Snowball, who we kept in a pen in the far corner of our back yard, where he gradually grew obese. If Mr. Baxter caught me in the driveway, bouncing a ball or something, he would say, “Guess what I’m having for dinner tonight Karen.” I’d always say something like, “I don’t know, what?” And he would answer “rabbit stew,” in a chilling voice for an otherwise mild mannered man.
This was the home I grew up in, the entire time it took me to grow. We didn’t leave it for any length of time, except to go camping. I came to it the first time straight from the hospital and right into the mercies of my sister, two and a half years older, lying in wait for me in her lair. I moved out for the last time 23 years later wearing my wedding dress, hopping into a jaguar borrowed from a Stiller family friend and carefully and slowly driven by my father, over the bridge and right to the chapel where Brent stood up front beside the minister, waiting.
My parents have long ago sold that house and moved to the country, as people do, and I am the only one who loves to drive by whenever I am visiting. Maybe it’s because I am the only one who moved away-away, to a different part of the country, and then moved and moved and moved again. I like to drive by Windward Ave, and see the tree that was the same size as me then towering over the house now. The branches are bigger and the house seems smaller. How did we all fit in there? I can hardly believe this is the very place where my policeman father would inspect our rooms for neatness – and this was called an inspection, during which he would so cleverly look under the bed where most of the mess had been hidden – and then he would align the blinds in the windows for the viewing pleasure of the widow Mrs. Johnson, who lived across the road. Our cat had a long emotional affair with her and spent hours sitting on her doorstep, gazing dreamily and hopefully into her house instead of ours, which my sister hated. This is the house where I read Nancy Drew like an addict, and there is the window of the room where I laughed and cried and cried and cried, because that’s what girls did back then, laying on our beds listening to our radios.
How I longed to move, back then. Every story I read hinted at the life I could be having, should be having, in another place, as another girl. But then I’d toss the book down on my rumpled orange comforter, hop on my bike and pedal for hours around the neighborhood I knew like the back of my hand, pretending my bike was a horse.
(This is a little chunk of a chapter from a project, on home and moving)
16 thoughts on “Writing home”
WOW. This gold nugget has excited me for this un-named project….
Thanks for a glimpse into the girl who grew to be this amazing woman of God .Love your writing ❤
I loved this Karen, we have more in common than I knew before I read this. Looking forward to reading your finished project my friend. Thanks for sharing. ????????????
Gahhhh!! I love this, and I want to read more. I’m looking forward to getting to know that little girl that became my friend when we were young, newly married adults. I love you, girlfriend, and I love your writing.
Can’t wait to read more! Lovely.
Karen! I loved this! I was right there with you, riding my second-hand, burgundy bike for hours, devouring every Nancy Drew under the covers with a flashlight, hiding from my father, who insisted I should be reading things of greater importance. I have to confess that I’ve been envious of you for years, because you get to enjoy my childhood/teenage haunts all around the Kawartha lakes as an adult. Nothing like reading in a hammock beneath the rustle of birch leaves. Delicious.
Love this, Karen! It’s so much *you*, so inviting and warm… can’t wait to read the whole book!!
Beautifully written , took me back to my favourite place growing up.( we moved a bit) Thank you for using your amazing gift !
Beautiful! Full of hope, longing and joy, the “longing kind” of joy which CS Lewis describes. Thanks for sharing and keep up the great writing! (Barbara Bjelland, barbarabjelland.wordpress.com)
I so enjoyed this, Karen. You had me right there, walking home from school along with you. I could picture the big field, the stones on the road, and aahhh, the Cheez Whiz on the crackers! Bring on the next story. I’m hooked already.
Love it! I seem to remember spending a moment in time at this home, camper parked in the driveway. I recall a play we put on for the parents?! Looking forward to your next project. In the meantime, I will share this one with mom, she loves to read them too.
Enjoyed this very much , you are a talented writer .
I loved this piece, Karen, but I didn’t quite know how to start putting it in words, so I will use someone else’s phrase: a gold nugget. It was of great value, like gold, because it made my hard corners go soft, and my heart feel hopeful that I could retrieve gold nuggets like that from my own childhood… spent not so far away from yours, always looking down, too, as I walked to school (but I don’t remember what I was thinking… yet!…)
I love you so much and am having a hard time tying through my tears. Karen you have an amazing gift of story telling. Nana would be busting her buttons! I immediately chuckled when you said you could walk home without looking where you were going. Of course you did! You drew the picture for others who didn’t grow up with you with vivid images. Wow! I was a part of the early years of your life and then as the older cousin I missed that wonderful day when you married Brent. God bless I am so proud of you and the way you are making a difference.
So evocative! I loved it.
I can taste the Cheez Whiz and saltines now.
I didn’t have a bike, but I traveled on an imaginary horse, too.
Great writing, my friend. Gail’s right. Nana would be exploding with pride at your skill and career.
I had no idea Smokey was having an affair….
Oh, and the little girl in that picture is incredibly cute.