Monday, November 12, 2012

The Old and The "New"

Flowering Quince AKA Chaenomeles
September 03, 2006 - 6:57 AM

As I mentioned early in my blog, I grew up in a small house in the country without all the modern conveniences like running water and plumbing in the house. We had an outdoor toilet and an outdoor shower, both built by my father. We did have running water on the back porch and in the shower, and a spigot just outside the shower as well. We brought water in and heated it to wash dishes and to bathe in, in winter. They were tough times for my folks, and they did the best they could with what they had. I'm very proud of what they accomplished.

 In 1969, my dad hired someone to build an addition to the house. What had been two bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen before became four bedrooms. The small "bathroom" and the "heating hall" where the kerosene heater had been located became just a larger hallway. We added running water and plumbing, of course, a large living room, a large kitchen-dining area separated only by a double-sinked counter, two bathrooms, a small hall, and four closets. I was thirteen that year, and that's also the year that we got our first telephone.

But with all these things that were added, there were some things taken away, as well. The window in the old bathroom became just a doorway. I used to sit on top of my mother's closed sewing machine cabinet to look out that window and see my dad arrive home from work. He was there every day just at 5:30. Also from that window, we could sometimes see the movie playing at the local drive-in movie theater, before the pines grew so tall they blocked the view, and before the movie screen fell to pieces once the modern cinemas came to town.

And on a few occasions, when I was very young, my father woke me up and held me up to that window to look outside and see the snow that very rarely fell. "Marthie... want to see some snow?" Now when we have snow here in France where the winters are colder, I look out our kitchen window, checking every few minutes to see if it's snowing yet... and though my dad died in 2000, I still hear, "Marthie? Want to see some snow?"

The back porch was torn off, the old back door filled in, and what we referred to as "the mud hole" was filled in as well. There was an old Firestone sign that my father had rigged to keep the drainage from the back porch sink from splashing up onto the porch and rotting it. The resulting run-off went down its own little path toward the roots of an oak tree my parents had planted there. In the wet earth, there was a stand of yellow-orange-red canna lilies. The tree stayed, but the cannas were cleaned out, and there would be no more digging for earthworms for fishbait at the wetter end of the mud hole.

Also disappearing just in that area, actually where the "new" part of the house stands even now, there was a flowering quince that we always referred to as a "crabtree." It was forgotten for at least twenty-five years, until I opened a Southern Living magazine containing photos of "your grandmother's flowers." I kept looking at those pictures and feeling this emotional reaction that I couldn't understand, until somehow I finally dug it from deep in the back of my mind... it was the same sort of bush we'd had all those years before, before the new part of the house was built. Now every year I look at those flowers that are among spring's first and feel joy that the plants are once again awakening, but also a nostalgia that will always be with me. be continued...

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