Saturday, August 10, 2013

And we don't know just where our bones will rest

Our lovely Texas front lawn, August 1979. And me.
August always makes me nostalgic. If this is 2013 then it was 34 years ago this month that my family made our big cross-country move from Ohio to Texas. My parents flew down first to scout things out, buy a house, get my brother and me registered for school, that sort of thing. While they were down here, my brother and I stayed in Canton with our paternal grandparents, who woke up VERY early indeed and did not eat the right sort of cereal at all. There was nary a drop of red dye #40 to be found at breakfast, for crying out loud. (Fortunately the Popsicles, Cheez Doodles, Circus Peanuts and RC Cola made up for it.)(But not for the getting up before 10 a.m. bit. In the summer! What is this, the Army?)

Whenever we stayed with our grandparents I'd sleep in my aunt Sue's old room, which by that time was sort of Grandpa's supplementary closet. His pressed shirts hung on the closet door and his cufflinks and WWII memorabilia were in a jewelry box on the dresser and you don't even want to know what happened the first time I found a swastika in there and thought for .025 seconds that my grandpa was a secret Nazi. (He very much wasn't. He fought in Europe AGAINST the Nazis, is all.)

There was no air conditioning in Grandma and Grandpa's house so in the summer of 1979 the windows were thrown open and as I lay in my aunt's old bed by the window at night I could hear train whistles and traffic and the sounds of the city. My dad said it took him years to be able to get a good night's sleep without all that noise around, this being the house in which he grew up. It's funny how things stay with you.

I'm not sure how long we were at Grandma and Grandpa's house before Mom and Dad came back -- no more than a week or two, I don't think -- and I don't remember much about the weeks before we left except that it was so sad saying goodbye to everyone and so exciting to think that we might see actual cowboys in our new home state. But we made our farewells and then we were off: two adults, two kids, a dog, two gerbils, a parakeet and a buttload of houseplants stuffed into a van driving from Ohio to Texas in August with no air conditioning. Good times, man. I still have a twitch.

We got here ahead of the moving truck (my dad's company was moving us) so we lived in a Howard Johnson's for a few days. And then we moved into our new house. And replanted the entire lawn. And stuff like that.

A few days later I started eighth grade at a school where all the kids who would have been bully magnets at my old school were suddenly the popular kids, and thus my culture shock was complete, like having the Sunday comics be all wrong wasn't bad enough (no Gasoline Alley? WTF?!). My parents had inexplicably signed me up for both drama class and basketball at my new school; I can only assume jetlag and/or rather a lot of Coors led to that decision. I enjoyed the former (drama, not jetlag) and loathed the latter (basketball, not Coors)(although ... that, too) and made some friends and somehow muddled through. And got straight A's on my report card for the first time in my life.

And the longer we lived here the weirder it felt going back to Ohio every summer to see that something had been built, something had been torn down, someone had died, someone had been born (I have at least twice the number of cousins now that I had in August 1979) and Arthur Treacher's was still in business. And there was the park where my brother fell on the teeter-totters and bit off part of his tongue, and there was my old school, and there was that place with the snapping turtles, and that's where Aunt Mariann used to work. And here's the church where we got married. And there's the hospital where you were born. And that was Mother Goose Land, and that was Meyers Lake, and that's where your grandparents are buried.

A lot has changed in both places in the past 34 years. We can get Smucker's and Hostess and even Clark bars down here now, but there's still no decent broasted chicken south of the Ohio River. And no Arthur Treacher's. And no rattlesnake-free woods for kids to run around in barefoot. And no cousins.

There's decent Tex-Mex food in my hometown now, and most of the chain stores I'm familiar with from down here are up there, too, but business signs sporting the last names of kids I grew up with are fading from the landscape. The houses we used to live in have all the wrong trees out front. Someone else lives in my grandparents' house now. Someone else listens to those trains at night.

It's weird to think that most of my memories of my hometown are crammed into a slightly less than 13-year period. More like ten years, really, if you discount the baby/toddler years. Now that I'm a parent myself, not to mention an old middle-aged lady, I know how short a period of time that is. Ein Augenblick. I've got underwear older than that.

My brother and me and our cousin Steve on Grandma and Grandpa's front porch. August 1979.

They say you can't go home again, but that's okay. I'm already here.


  1. I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH. So much it warrants an all-caps comment. "It's funny how things stay with you." Yes, it is. The specific small details of these stories make me feel the moments, and like me, you are a fan of strings of parenthetical comments. :) I think we are separated at birth in some weird way (and not just because I also say "I've got underwear older than that.". Really, I love this post, it's so wistful.

    1. Lori, I have long thought we must have been separated at birth! See you Thursday! :)

  2. Two words: Arthur. Treachers. I love a displaced midwesterner!

    1. The meal you just can't make ... at ... home!

  3. Awesome post. Of course, part of it comes from me having made the same epic move with my family from Ohio to Texas three years later than you. Part of it is the Arthur Treachers reference. Part of it is your capturing the oddness of going back. But most of all, I liked your voice through the whole thing. That was awesome. Thank you.

  4. For me , not being American, this post was like watching a very good movie, I saw you guys, your parents searching for a new life, your grandparents with all their good/bad vibes, I heard the noises through the open window while feeling the hot evening air on my body.

  5. Paola has written very eloquently how I felt reading this - so I can only say - what she said. What a beautiful post.

  6. I remeber when you wrote about that day with you and your brother all those years ago. So many memories...I think summer brings them on. I was going down memory-lane just this afternoon myself. Happy and sad all at once. And? Holy Crap! I was married a year already in 1979; babe though I was.