Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Old Lair

On this day in 1972 (45 years ago), my family moved to this house.

My engineer dad got a job at Morganite in Dunn, NC, and we moved from small-town St. Mary's, PA to (really not that much bigger back then) North Raleigh. I marvel at how real estate transactions ever happened without the Internet. Morganite flew my parents down, and they had a weekend to select the house we'd grow up in. As an adult, I thanked Dad for moving us to Raleigh rather than Dunn. His commute was over an hour -- I don't even think the Beltline was completed then. 

Mom moved from a drinking, smoking, card-playing life in a German-Catholic town that had its own brewery since 1872 to Southern-Baptist-dominated Raleigh, which didn't even have "liquor by the drink." As I understand it, the restaurants would have little cubby holes behind the bars, and like, your company would maintain bottles of liquor there that the bartender would pour for a corking fee? Something like that. I think it was bordering on scandalous for a woman to drink or hang out in bars. Then Mom got a job as a waitress at nearby Mayberry (later, Lock, Stock & Barrel), and it was probably remarkable for her to be walking up the street in her little uniform, too. I wish she were around now so I could ask her what it must have been like to pick up and move her family of six to such a foreign culture after she'd lived her whole life in St. Mary's. (I have a bit of an inkling, now.)

The house in Raleigh had woods in back, at least until I was in about 4th grade, when they built houses back there. All the kids would hang out in the woods and build forts. We knew the woods like the backs of our hands. There were trails and places everyone knew: the Bunny Trail, the Whoop-de-dos. There was a burnt down old farm house back there overrun with vegetation. I was shoeless from April to October, crossing the creek over a fallen tree and sometimes even walking barefoot down the gravel Rocky Road to the Power Lines. If the briar patch got me, I washed my cuts with nasty creek water.

Some kids had motor bikes. I knew who was coming to visit by the sound of their bike. My brothers won a Kawasaki from WKIX. I was too little to drive it, but I rode on back and had my bare legs singed multiple times - specifically that time Bob wiped out on Devil's Hill with me and Eric on back. Our house was midway between the Power Lines (the nighttime party hangout) and Colony Shopping Center, and the shirtless freaks and bell-bottomed hippy girls were always stopping by looking for one of my brothers. Sometimes they'd hang out and play ping-pong or TV tennis or Led Zeppelin records or guitar.

We moved to Raleigh two weeks after a mass shooting at North Hills Mall, a mile and a half away from our new house. Our car stopped for gas just after crossing into North Carolina. It was late afternoon in summer, so naturally, it had just rained. Steam issued forth from the pavement like a lava pit in Hell, and my brother Bobby gasped for air as he got out of the car to pee. "Is this what it's gonna be like here??" he asked Mom. She didn't know.

How could she know whether they'd made a good decision, that the house would be in our family for 40 years? That its cracked patio would host killer keggers; that its brown oven produce golden turkeys; that its front stoop shelter a boyfriend's shy goodnight kiss? That, according to my husband, I actually walk differently when I'm within a mile of it because I guess I feel like I belong there?

Random bit of advice, though: If you aim to learn to ride a bike without training wheels, don't let your older brother teach you on a driveway lined with holly bushes.

No comments:

Post a Comment