House, Home

Your absence has gone through me like thread through a needle;
Everything I do is stiched with its color. – Edna St. Vincent Millay

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What makes a house a home? When there is nothing about it, in it, around it that doesn’t generate some kind of memory for you. When it is the backdrop to so many experiences, good and bad, with both friends and family, how can it not be defined as a home “where the heart is”?

In the “olden days” they used to refer to them as “the homeplace” where children were born and raised in only a few rooms. But that didn’t make it small, no sir. If anything, it was that much more full. The homeplaces of my grandmothers and the ones they created with their husbands to raise their children still exist, and now have taken on a magical, mystical dimension for me. I guess I’m an old soul to be so enamoured with those small, simple little wooden houses. Not much to look at by most people’s standards.

Only recently, now that Clara has come along, have I started thinking more about the “homeplace” concept and what makes a house a home. The house I grew up in – 124 Ridgeway Road – in Marietta, Georgia was most definitely a home, not just a house, but at the time I lived there it never occurred to me that it was MY homeplace. I always thought that the memories I had would travel with me where I went and the backdrop, the house, was not really so important. It was just a 70’s brick ranch, after all, in the middle of 7.5 acres on a hill with a super long curvy driveway that my brother and I MASTERED on bikes, skateboards, go-carts and the like. The house couldn’t be seen from the road, so, to others, I’m sure it was a bit intriguing to look up and wonder about it from down there. I never felt it lived to up to it’s intrigue, but that’s probably because it was ours and we knew it and the grounds inside and out, so where’s the mystery?

My mother, I seem to remember, made it clear that the purchase of the house was a decision my father had made, an “investment” for the future (and how). But, it was not the house my mother would have chosen had she had her druthers. The backdoor through the kitchen was the un-official entryway because the actual front door had no pathway of any kind leading up to it. It meant my mother always had to keep the kitchen tidy because, as is tradition in the South, you never know when someone might show up on your doorstep. There was no laundry room, just a washer and dryer in a traditional basement filled to the brim with, to the naked eye, junk (a glorious place to explore as a child). She hated the lack of a laundry room and the many stairs between the laundry hampers and the washing machine. This, I feel, influenced the way I thought of the house. Also, as I got older, I got interested in decorating and magazines like Country Living. Our house was nothing like those houses and, in my mind, had none of the architectural charm that even the small cottage-like homeplaces of my grandmothers had. So, I always assumed that my connection with 124 Ridgeway Road was only as a backdrop to the life that I was living and not much more.

After my brother and I were “grown” and long since gone from the house, my parents put it on the market, ready to cash in on the investment they had made. It was on the market for at least seven years (give or take). I think because it was up for so long, I never really believed it was “for sale”. I remember that when I would come home to visit from Seattle, as soon as we started up that long, curvy driveway (which somehow seemed to get shorter as I got older), I could begin to smell my home. Standing in the driveway, pulling out my luggage, I would take a few deep breaths and suck in the smell in the air, unique to my home. It’s the best way I can describe it. It was as though the air around the house had its own distinct flavor. Were that I could have bottled it! It would sell faster than Kramer’s “Ocean” is my sincere belief.

I’m realizing lately that I have many other memories of the house and grounds in which they play a starring roll, not just the set the scene. One of my favorite games as a child was to go out into the woods (the entirety of the 7.5 acres) and play “Timber” with my brother and friends. We would find the vine-y limbs of trees that had broken off but not made it out of the tangle of branches and pull and pull until they would fall on top of us. We would yell “Timber” and I usually would pretend that they had hurt me and fall to the ground. Brett or whoever would then have to come and “rescue” me! Then there were the races my brother and I had from the very top of the driveway to the bottom. It took us YEARS to build up the courage to do the whole thing WITH RECKLESS ABANDON – no brakes allowed! My grandmother tells a story of the time we were both very little on our big wheels or tricycles, just going down a portion of the driveway. We kept promising her, “One more time, Granny, one more time.” At the exact same time, we both took nose dives. So, there is my poor grandmother with two screaming toddlers and “lots” of blood trying to figure out if and how badly we were really hurt. She loves to tell that story and laugh at us for not listening to her and stopping before we bit it.

Two cats, Mister and Missy, and a dog, Heidi, are buried there. My brother and I had a shared ghostly experience there. (We were sitting in the den very early one Saturday morning before my parents were awake. We heard heavy footsteps on the roof and then a man fall off screaming “ahhhhhh” as he fell. We looked at each other scared to death, then found the nerve to run outside to see. No one was there! Mom and dad didn’t believe us, of course, but we never could explain how we both heard it if it didn’t happen. Da da dom!)

Even my “porn” name is based off that home. You know, the grade school game where you take as your first name the of your first pet – Heidi – and the last name of the road you live on – Ridgeway. Heidi Ridgeway. That’s a pretty good porn star name if I do say so myself. (Don’t worry, I’ve given up my “porn star” ways. Now my name – Joy Fisher – sounds like a movie star, or so says one of the Custom Fence Company vendors that I speak with every month. She tells me that every time I call in. I can’t complain. Now, if we can just work on the movie star lifestyle . . .)

The house at 124 Ridgeway Road did finally sell to a developer who planned to put up 47 town homes on it and my parents moved a couple hours further south to Fortson, Georgia. That’s been about, wow, two years ago already, I guess. Although the last few times I’ve been home to see family I’ve been at their new home in Fortson, I never really acknowledged the fact that my homeplace was gone. The developer still hadn’t begun building so the house was just standing there, still full of a number of things my parents left behind after years of accumulating stuff. I knew the house was going to be destroyed, ripped down when the bulldozers came in and I kind of liked the idea that no other family would live there and start building up a relationship with “my homeplace” and “my woods”. But when I heard a couple months ago that the house burned to the ground, I was suddenly very sad about it. We have no information on what happened there exactly and why it burned, but it felt like a tragic death in the family and somehow very unjust. That just wasn’t how my home was supposed to go. It wasn’t supposed to end like that.

This post is dedicated to my homeplace, the house where I grew up that became a true home and the most beautiful backdrop to the story of so much of my life.

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Update: I’ve been to see the house since it burnt down and have pictures in this blog post here.

2 Responses to “House, Home”

  1. Azariel Says:

    It’s a relief to find sooneme who can explain things so well

  2. Velavan Says:

    Insgihts like this liven things up around here.

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