If I could be transported to any time and place, I would choose my grandparent’s home in Lone Star, Texas, the time frame would be June 1959 to September 1960.. The house itself was located on San Jacinto Drive. I no longer remember the exact address, but I remember the small clapboard ranch painted white with green trim. The carport had a small storage shed and housed only one car. My grandmothers 1956 Green Dodge sat in the carport, my grandfather’s olive green Plymouth was parked in the driveway, when it wasn’t parked at the Lone Star Steel Company, the Lone Star Methodist Church, or the local Piggly Wiggly. He did 90% of the driving, my grandmother, in fact, didn’t learn to drive until they moved to Lone Star, at that time she was in her 50s!
The house was perched on a perfectly manicured lawn of Bermuda grass. The one Blue Spruce pine in the front yard was the tree I hugged, the one I wrote poetry inspired by, and the tree I wish I could see see just one more time. The chrysanthemums, begonias, amaryllis and daffodils were planted an the side of the house, terraced like stair steps, where I loved to pretend that i was a princess in the Royal gardens. My grandfather’s design of carefully orchestrated reds, yellows, pinks and purples were as artful as any painting. Purple irises bloomed in front of the house and the American Beauty rose bushes were planted in the back yard. The yard itself was not the postage stamp size of most of the homes on that block, it was on a corner lot, and afforded twice as much room to run, play and meditate as the other yards nearby, and I often did all three of those things. I didn’t know at 12, that i was meditating, but looking out over the flowers, I felt closely connected to God. The house sat above the other houses, and looking down into the yards below added to my feeling of being the royal princess looking out over her subjects!
Entering from the side door into the kitchen, smells of cookies baking, chicken and dumplings bubbling on the stove, sounds of Lawrence Welk’s orchestra or some jazz band from the 40s greeted you. My grandmother showed her love through food, kitchen cabinets, refrigerator and freezer were always well stocked, and her home- cooked meals are the ones I crave for comfort food. Besides sights, sounds and smells to greet you, 2 redfawn female pekingese bounced into the kitchen to see who was at the door with their tails wagging and Ling Toi sitting on her hind legs flapping her front paws at me. If a stranger, the mailman or a neighbor knocked on the door, the barking would commence, and if a male entered the house, Little Princess China would snap at their heels. Even my grandfather didn’t have immunity unless he wore shoes some other color besides black. Pinky, as we called her, did not like men’s black shoes!
The kitchen opened directly into the living/dining room with it’s dining room table on the right of the door and the couch, chair, ottoman, coffee table, and television on the left; the window air conditioning unit buzzed. It was the only air conditioner in the house, and yet it was always slightly chilly suring summer, even in August. A multi-colored granny square afghan was placed on the back of the couch, and my grandmother’s knitting basket sat at one end of it. Often during the day, my art supplies, consisting of things like kleenex boxes, toilet paper rolls, frozen juice cans, and tissues for making paper flowers were strewed across the coffee table, which held a crocheted white doily under a crystal candy dish, usually filed with caramels . The dark mahogany bureau matched the dining room table, but was placed in the living room due to size constraints. The bureau held tablecloths, napkins, and behind the side doors were boxes of chocolate covered cherries.. I was usually able to snag a chocolate covered cherry about once a week without fear of consequences. I still don’t know whether they didn’t know I did it, or with the patience only a grandparent has, simply overlooked the misdeed.
A door from both the kitchen and the living room led to the hall that took you to the bedrooms and the bath, My bedroom sat next to the kitchen, and was flanked on the other side by my grandparents’ bedroom . A right angle turn into the hall led to the bath and other bedroom. The 3rd bedroom, about the size of today’s walk in closets, was converted into a library/sewing room/music room. My grandfather’s recliner was my favorite chair in the house. I curled up for hours reading books taken from the built in bookshelves, reading books like Five Little Peppers and How they Grew (and every sequel that Margaret Sydney wrote!) also Gene STratton Porter’s Freckles, Her Father’s Daughter, the Girl of the Limberlost (the only book my grandmother ever read!). I read Tolstoy, Thomas Merton, Ayn Rand, Kafka, Zane Grey, Little Women, Voltaire, the Wizard of Oz, Through the Looking Glass, and Gone With the Wind, to name a few. Quite the advanced education for a 12 year old girl in the sixties!. Books were my ticket to another world, although the one i lived in was lovely and loving, the adventures I had while reading fueled my imagination to want more, to think more and to do more. That was also the year I learned I enjoyed writing.
I wrote my first book. Alicia and Alyse go to Paris. (No doubt inapired by the book Mrs ‘arris goes to Paris.) It was a fiction about twins, who traveled by boat to Paris for a publicity tour for their book. Their constant companions were their pekingese dogs and of course, they fell in love with their agents! After writing that, I started to write poetry, and kept myself busy reading Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barret Browning, Tennyson and Keats. I wrote a parody of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam for sixth grade English. not knowing at the time that a Rubaiyat was itself the name of a poetic form.
1960 is the year I return to when I need to remember that life is basically good, when I need to feel total unconditional love, and that is the memory that propels me forward in my writing life and never lets me quit no matter what.