Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I'm not quite sure how many of you listen to as much country music as I do - and on a regular basis, too - but there's this song titled The House That Built Me by Miranda Lambert. And I've heard it a couple of times. There are some wonderful lines in there, and while some of them don't really mesh with life for me (I can't play guitar, and probably will never learn - I'd rather learn piano first) they still conjure a potent image. A specific potent image.

A little green house - that used to be brown, and still is, on the second floor in the front - that sits beside a stone driveway. Stone meaning rather uniformly sized large gravel that's kind of sharp in the summertime when you walk down the driveway barefoot. Walking barefoot anywhere within a hundred yard radius is pretty much a given between the end of May and the beginning (if the weather cooperates) of October, anyway.

So there's this little green house in a place called Townsend. Ask me where I'm from and you're going to get that response, even if we don't have a post office, don't have a traffic light (but we do have a stop sign) and everybody has a back yard in varying degrees of largeness. This little green house sits across from what used to be the stereotypical country store where if it was dinnertime, and there was nothing to eat, it became a great night for cheeseburgers on the gas grill, and Louise, go get some buns from the store across the road.

The school bus stopped at the little green house from kindergarten all the way through junior year.

One of the song lyrics is, If I could just come in I swear I'll leave/Won't take nothin' but a memory/Of that house that built me.

The little green house built me.

It was a place where I learned to run before I walked (which is, rather ironically, still true of many things). Where I took naps on the floor (and more or less slept there at night, too). Did my homework curled up on the right end of the couch and usually had a cat lying over the textbook I was trying to read. Which still happens, now that I'm in college. I used to practice my soccer juggling skills in the living room. The shade for the overhead light has never been the same. And the ball was a bit flat at the time.

The house that built me was the house my grandfather grew up in. Where my parents had lived for thirty or so years of their marriage. Where I lived for seventeen years. Where I started my novel, on the back porch in August after the world more or less tipped, tilted, and slid off its axis for a little while. Where I wrote most of the book I'm still working on, six years later. Where, during breakfast, I used to watch that one spastic little fawn run from one side of the upper yard to the other while his mother looked on, thoughtfully chewing on an apple from one of the little trees.

The turkeys. Oh, the turkeys.

Actually, more like a flock of forty turkeys and one brave (stupid) gray, black, and white cat who thought he was invincible. And wound up making new friends that he couldn't catch off a bird feeder.

The apple tree that was basically scorched on one side hand in hand with the barrels dad used to bring home from work, and that first fire in the them. Be thankful if it didn't blow up in your face. Literally.

Some are more funny than others. That's true of life. The main point - that house and the people in it, built me. Much the same way that Miranda was built by the house she lived in. My roots are buried in the back yard, near the "stream" (use the term loosely) and the apple tree that's only half-living (and how it hasn't died yet completely I don't know) with a view of the sun settin' behind those western rolling hills. I'm not being poetic - that's just the way things are around here. The hills roll (my friend from Massachusetts called them "mountains" the first time she saw them, mostly because where we go to school is much more flat than a mere thirty-five mils south) the grass grows (exponentially from the first hard rainfall and warm spell, and good luck getting a handle on it) and the peepers hardly shut their mouths. Rain-clean earth is one of the sweetest smells there is - along with molten asphalt, and summer-breeze-dried clothes from the line - and an endless sky above makes you feel very, very tiny in the grand scheme of things. Very tiny and very much alive.

And if that doesn't work, jumping in the lake certainly will, as that hardly reaches comfortable temperature even in the middle of August.

Part of the house that built me is hearing the current hooligans (or people with much, much nicer cars than I drive - not newer; some are nearly twice my age, along with their drivers) going around the track. You get good enough to start recognizing the time of year (Porsche, BMW, or NASCAR) and the type of vehicle (Porsche, BMW, stock car) by sound. That and the type of people you start seeing in town. Wine Festival? Go the old way.

We're all built by different things, events, people, and places into who and what we are today. I was built mostly by a little green house in a place that not many have heard of - and partly by the house across the road, and those six months of inhabiting the same space as certain family members again, oh, yeah, and have I mentioned that we've been living here four years and only recently (November) got curtains for upstairs - and the people I share it with. There's a bit left in the building process. That's okay, though. I'd think I'd rather have it that way than not.


HaB said...

Your killing me smalls. Killing me!

Molly Louise said...


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"The difference between life and the movies is that a script has to make sense, and life doesn't."

-Joseph L. Mankiewicz