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Old 08-26-2009, 02:06 PM
Location: Paris, France
321 posts, read 918,236 times
Reputation: 403


I was born in Gulfport and raised in Long Beach.

I have never been nostalgic for childhood. I was in a hurry to grow up to be able to control my own life, so each step of growing up was left behind without a backward glance. “Wow, I’m glad that’s over with!”

However, now that a certain number of years have gone by and I appear to be leaving adolescence, I have found time to pass in review a few moments of my life.

We lived on the edge of town in a house that my parents had built themselves. It was next door to the old wooden house of my paternal grandparents, and actually the amount of land, in retrospect, was quite massive. Between the two houses was a huge garden of azalea bushes, gardenias, roses, pecan trees, even an old “summerhouse” sagging under a jungle of wisteria and trumpet vine, a goldfish pond surrounded by irises (“watch out for the snakes”), hedges full of honeysuckle and blackberries, a dogwood tree and even a pomegranate bush. In the very earliest years, there was a henhouse that still had chickens in it behind the old house (surrounded by morning glories and four o’clocks, monkey grass and mother-in-law tongues, lilies and caladiums) and behind that was the pecan grove with about 20 pecan trees quietly living their declining years. On the far side of the house was an enormous stand of bamboo and also some persimmon trees, with most of the persimmons lying rotting on the ground covered by bluebottle flies. I never thought about it, but I have no idea how they were able to have so much land, because my grandfather was just a locomotive engineer and my grandmother was a housewife who had raised 5 children.

Our house was on the other side of the property (given to my father? purchased?) and the vegetation was not as lush, although we had plenty of the obligatory azaleas, pecan trees, roses and lilies – and also an orange tree, a tangerine tree, a grapefruit bush, a mulberry bush, some fig trees, gardenias, a magnolia tree… it wasn’t exactly barren. Hydrangeas hugged the walls of the house, and a mimosa waved its pink balls near the front door.

Instead of a pecan grove behind our house, there was an abandoned pasture where there used to be cows when I was barely big enough to walk. It was all overgrown now and full of mystery and danger (“watch out for the snakes”). One corner of the pasture was a watermelon patch, even though the snapping turtles seemed to get about half of the watermelons – those were nasty threatening creatures. Not all turtles hide inside their shells – some of them come running after little children with wild eyes and cruel jaws!

There was also a little area with the most incredibly lush grass growing in a large oval. Even when the rest of the pasture was dry and yellow, this patch was always green and full of life. All I knew about it was “that’s where they buried the calf.” I was always hoping that somebody would find some other dead animals to bury, because I wanted to see what would grow.

Also, there were ditches surrounding the property, and that was the great attraction for my brother and me (“watch out for the snakes”). We spent all of our spare time patrolling the ditches, catching frogs and toads, finding frog eggs and putting them in Mason jars so we could watch the tadpoles hatch, catching minnows with our nets and fishing for crawfish in the muddy sections with a piece of ham tied to a string. We would also scoop up mosquito larvae (“wrigglers”), because we had a massive set of aquariums at home (at least six) full of guppies, tetras, angelfish, mollies and all sorts of others that absolutely loved gobbling wrigglers when we would drop them in the aquarium.

As I got older, the territory diminished, because my grandfather died, and my grandmother sold her property and moved into a house “in town.” A developer bought it and put an entire housing development in the orchard and pasture, called something like Pecanwood Estates, with a whole new circular road called Pecanwood Drive. Naturally, nearly all of the pecan trees were ripped down to make room for the cheesy brick houses, and all of the azaleas, wisteria, trumpet vine… everything that had made the land nice was gone.

We were reduced to our own house and big yard, but it just wasn’t the same. Of course my brother and I were reaching the age where it was much more interesting to stay inside and play loud music that our parents hated instead of doing anything in the yard. The badminton net and the croquet circuit were abandoned. The only reason to go outside was to make $5 allowance money mowing the lawn.

Thinking back on all that, it seems as though it was the Garden of Eden. Even our cheap driveway of crushed oyster shells lined with oleander and crape myrtle now seems lovely in hindsight. I now live in a world of stone where the vegetation is rare. But I don’t have to watch out for the snakes anymore.
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