Some talk yesterday about the passage of time and its effects on the changing face of hometowns and the confusion, surprise and sense of loss that these changes foster in old eyes looking back through the filter of youthful memories. There’s a pretty good chance the surprise is multiplied when eyes are turned to the house you grew up in, if it happens to still be standing. And I suppose for many of us that is the case.
My family moved to Baton Rouge from Mississippi in 1948, Daddy Clyde going to work in a lumber company on Florida Boulevard. The five of us moved into one of Aunt Emmy’s houses across the street from Coco Lumber, rooms where earlier tenants had left their shades upon closets and bedrooms. I was too young to notice the arrival in Louisiana, and my first memories of 340 Wabash come at a later time.
The images are strongest some years later, those between twelve and eighteen when I had my own room thanks to Daddy’s decision to build an addition onto the house when two bedrooms became too few for five. Not surprisingly, life changed after I got my own room. And it’s those changes and those days and nights that captured my attention on Tuesday.
In 1996 my sister and I made a visit to Baton Rouge for the purpose of resolving issues with the old house on Wabash. Since our mother’s death it had been home to a string of temporary part-timers, and was in dire need of serious attention. The last renters had run out, leaving the place with a post-tornado look. Not the solution we’d expected, but within a couple of weeks a buyer turned up and we sold the old Childhood Library of Memories for a fair amount. For my part, in selling the house a hard kernel of sadness came with the relief.
Back for visit I was eager to return to the old neighborhood and see where time had taken that house, the ark of a thousand memories. My last sight of the house on Wabash was years ago, not long after its renovation. The first impression yesterday was of tree growth—the entire neighborhood now overhung with giant live oaks swooping down upon the street. But the house, despite a certain charm that came with its earlier renovation, is beginning to look lived in. Nothing exceptional, only the average signs of life spilling through windows and cracks into the front yard. Hard to say how these things work, but I got that old feeling of home-ness that I remember from throwing my bike down in the front yard and tumbling inside just as Mamma called supper.
A different time, a different family, but the chord stretching forward from long years back still resonates with a feeling of home. Pictures, then and now…