I wrote this after reading a new series named #WhereILivedWednesday on a blog I follow called Ann's Rants. Hopefully she'll be doing more of these because I enjoyed reading other people's memories of past homes.
My great-grandmother Elizabeth
moved to a nursing home when I was four. Her little house on Tenth Street was empty, so my parents bought it and returned from the suburbs of Tulsa to their
hometown. That's how I ended up sleeping in my Nana's childhood bedroom, two doors down from the house where my mother grew up.
My great-grandparents came out from
Jackson, Tennessee, in 1920 to work in their brother-in-law Charlie’s dry goods store.
Just a couple of decades before, the Creek Indian Nation had been forced by the Dawes
Commission to enroll its members and accept private allotments of their reservation land in preparation for statehood. All “surplus” land was sold by the federal government to
white settlers. The massive Glenn Pool oil
field to the north and the coal mines to the south filled the booming town with refineries
and manufacturing plants. When my great-grandparents arrived, new telephone lines and unpaved streets were laid
out awaiting the homes of
the fortune-seekers who were flooding into the former Indian Territory.
Elizabeth and John built a two-bedroom craftsman bungalow on
one of those new streets. A deep, cool
front porch stretched across the entire width of the house, with
French doors that opened onto the living room and the front bedroom. There was
a spacious dining room with more French doors, a
kitchen with an alcove for the breakfast table, a bathroom, and a small back
bedroom for the children.
My Nana Ruth and her sister Annie grew up there from the jazz-paced growth and oil money opulence of the ‘20s through
the Dust Bowl years of the ‘30s when John took to the bumpy roads selling candy door-to-door. Ruth married one of the GIs who came pouring into town during the War and they quickly had four children. Looking for a home of their own during the housing shortages
of the 1950s, they decided to buy the Victory Garden plot on Tenth Street. They built a small ranch-style
home within spitting distance of Ruth’s parents. The Hardwicks, who lived in the house between them, never minded when I cut across their backyard to my grandparents' house just as my mother had done.
When we moved in,
the refrigerator was out on the back porch. There were only six ancient glass fuses in the electrical box
and no central air-conditioning -- only the old attic fan that sounded like
a freight train and made you feel like you were floating
when it sucked all the air up into the ceiling. The driveway was unpaved. The light
switches were black push-buttons. My parents spent all their savings updating
the place, even renovating the only bathroom while my mother was hugely
pregnant with my brother in 1983.
But the wallpaper in my bedroom never changed. It was the
same toile paper that had been on the
walls when my Nana slept there, faded from it's original color to a dingy taupe on a yellowed background. The kitchen also stayed the pea
green color that my Uncle Karl had painted it sometime in the ‘70s.
The headboard in my parents' room was stained by John's hair oil. I tried on my
mother’s jewelry at Elizabeth’s dressing table on the stool with the
needlepoint seat she stitched herself. We put up our Christmas tree in
the same corner of the living room by the fireplace where it had always stood.
On rainy days, I played on the wide porch where my mother
once fell and split her forehead open. My parents put up a swing set under the big
magnolia tree by the back stoop where, according to my Nana, disheveled men had come up from the alley to the back door to beg for spare
food during the Depression. Also the town bootlegger would come in that way to
deliver your hooch if you called him up on the telephone and left the light on.
I went to the same elementary school as my mother and
grandmother. My music
teacher had been my mother’s teacher. We also had the same Sunday school teacher at the First Presbyterian Church where my Nana was an Elder. Same choir director, too, although
And then things changed, as they do. My father was
transferred by his company to another small town north of Tulsa. My parents had to sell
the little bungalow on Tenth Street, and it passed out of our family for
We came back regularly to visit my grandparents
down the street. The new people kept
the old place looking nice, but it was disconcerting
to see the changes they made. It felt odd not to run back and forth between the two houses anymore. I never
asked my Nana how she felt, living two doors down from her old home without being able to pop in any time she liked to commune with
her memories there. I can’t imagine it wasn’t painful at times, especially
after her mother passed away.
I myself have only driven down that street a few times in
the last decade, especially now that Nana doesn't even live there either. It’s still surreal and melancholy, even though so much time has passed. I'm sure the Creeks could tell us exactly how impossible it is to kill that sense of longing for your lost home.