This isn’t any old house. This is the house of my childhood. The only constant that I’ve ever known in my almost-31 years. I’ve lived in a handful of houses over the years and haven’t missed a single one.
Even getting there was an adventure. At that time, highway 77 in Charlotte wasn’t nearly as traveled as it is now. As we headed down the highway, I’d get more and more excited as we reached her exit. Exit 33. A marker I always looked for as a child to let me know that big breakfasts, swimming, fishing, and fun were minutes away.
There were other mile markers. The ostrich farm. A giant tree at a fork in the road where we veered left to continue on to the house. My Grandaddy told us that George Washington slept under that tree. A few years ago it was cut down, but I can see it plain as day in my memory. Next, the horse farms just up the road that we always walked to to feed them dandelions and grass. My cousin Michael always had better luck getting them to come to the fence, and I loved petting their sweet noses.
I daydreamed a lot in this house. I’d be a fairy riding on a bluebird and my whole day consisted of finding berries for the other birds and wild animals to eat. My love for flowers, birds and beautiful things was encouraged and one of my favorite things in the whole world was bringing my grandparents a fresh bouquet of their most beautiful flowers, usually roses or camellias, for the dinner table.
In this house, we had bacon, eggs and grits for breakfast and sugary cereal at night for a snack, with plenty of ice cream and Oreo cookies in between.
We snapped green beans and picked tomatoes from my grandfather’s garden plot across the street.
We built forts and tents and slept on the freezing concrete floor in the basement.
We watched summer thunderstorms from the garage, marveling at the loud cracks from the lightening and wondering how long we could stand outside in the rain without Meemaw catching us and telling us to come inside.
We fished, swam, climbed trees, and ran around with the neighborhood dogs.
We heard stories of WWII, of travels, and of Tanky Bogus, the a particularly hideous monster who slept in the basement and who would eat us if we went into the lake without an adult. Tanky made a high-pitched chirping noise so terrifying (a noise from the old fridge downstairs, I later found out) that I would time myself to run downstairs to get a drink and come right back up before he’d have the chance to snap at my heels.
We dressed up on Sundays and went to church and tried to be good during the sermon, but ended up playing tic-tac-toe and hangman until there was no white space left in the program margins.
We went to Slicky Rock, a creek in Mooresville that my grandfather introduced us to, and busted our butts sliding down the creek bed rocks, making sure not to let the crawfish in the pool below pinch our feet.
We got splinters (Oh, that dock was always snagging our feet), bug bites, cuts and bruises, and were always doctored up with the utmost care followed by an offering of Oreo cookies and a giant glass of milk to dunk them in.
This house is undergoing the process of being sold. My grandmother has been living there alone since my grandfather’s death in 1998, and she hasn’t lived there herself since last fall when she moved to Atlanta permanently. Since then, various family members have taken numerous trips to move furniture, box up everything and get it ready to sell, but there’s still a ton of stuff after her almost-31 years there.
Enormous McMansions have sprung up all around the house (Lake Norman is apparently the place to live now), and my fear is that when the lot is sold it will be bulldozed and the beauty and magic of it will be lost. Every now and then I feel the loneliness and emptiness of knowing that it won’t be there forever, and for a moment I would give anything in the world to be eight years old again, trying for the life of me to get a worm on a hook, or staying on top an innertube being pulled by the pontoon, or perfecting my scrambled eggs just the way Grandaddy made them.
I have pictures, videos, and people to remind me of that place and time, and I’ve combed through them all lately re-remembering all I can about this house. When I feel lost or stagnant or helpless, I hear Grandaddy’s voice in my head. “Keep going,” he says to me. And I will.