Homage To My Home (Part 1)By Angenita Childs

124 South 16th Street, West Memphis, Arkansas, 72305

July 1987

The little black 1980’s model thunderbird rolls down Broadway, past the Church’s Chicken and makes a right onto South 16th Street in West Memphis, Arkansas. It creeps along the block, passing up the Jordans, The Smiths, and Miss LaVera, to the last house at the end of the street. This is where the Williams family lives.

As you pull into the driveway, you see the attached carport and the bushes that separate the Williams’ house from Miss LaVera’s abode. The concrete front porch has two tan posts and runs the length of the front of the house, and the front of the house boasts a brown brick wall on the bottom, and brown paint on the top. There are two huge windows, and a screen door, with the entrance door painted tan, just like the trim of the house. The children like to climb on the tree that stands in the middle of the yard. Hedges also adorn the front of the yard by the ditch near the street. A large field sits to the right of the house and travels far into the back almost to the next block.

The carport has two doors; one leads you into the laundry room, and one guides you into the small kitchen. The door to the right just as you exit your car is the door to the kitchen. The color palate is extremely earthy with its brown stove, a brown refrigerator, brown cabinets, and a brown door which happens to be the utility closet. The kitchen has a tiny dining area, adorned with a small oak dining room table and four chairs. A stark white freezer chest fits squarely in the corner behind the dining room table. The window gives you a grand view of the front yard.

Straight ahead from the dining area, through the small brown trimmed doorway, you see the living room equipped with dark cherry wood bookshelves full of years’ worth of encyclopedias because the father of the house thinks they would make his kids smarter than they already were. The furniture, circa 1980s, is blocked style, with an intermingling of tan and brown. The fluffy carpet is also brown, and protected by a plastic runner. The television is a Zenith floor model, also brown wood, with a tan cable box with a long cord connected to it. A huge window air conditioner fits perfectly in the far wall of the living room, bringing the house to a satisfying temperature during those Arkansas summer days.

The only bathroom in the house is down the hall on your left. The stark white bathroom contrasts in color to the rest of the house, although the vanity is brown wood. The walls and floor tiles were a clean bright white. The luminous silver shower head was installed by the father. The girl child likes to stand in the falling water, and usually has to be scolded out of it.

Diagonally across the hall, about two steps down, is the girl’s bedroom. Since she is the oldest, and the only girl, the former den was converted to accommodate her. Her bedroom showcases a lovely cherry wood bedroom set. She has two cherry wood dressers and one with a mirror on it. She has a tiny closet, but she is happy just to have a new big bed. Her walls are dark blue, with light blue trim, and a small clock with red numbers glows from the top of the taller dresser.  If you look out her window, you can see the big field right next to her house and the upholstery repair store directly across from her room. She likes to go there and play sometimes.

Leaving her room diagonally across the hall is her parent’s room. This room is large enough to house two closets, one of which has a light in it. The room holds a dark cherry bedroom set similar to that of the girl child, but it’s on a much bigger scale. The parent’s room has cold pinkish tile floors and two windows; one on the left wall that looks directly at Miss LaVera’s house, and one focused on the backyard.

Leave the parents’ room and immediately to your left is the room that houses the boys. They sleep on twin sized cherry wood beds. The boys share a small closest. They only had room for one dresser, which they shared, but they had something the girl didn’t: a small black and white television. Just like the girl, their room was painted dark blue with a light blue trim, and they had matching dark blue bedspreads. They too had a window that looked directly into the backyard, and one  that looked at the field on the right side of the house.

If you look out of the parents’ or the boys’ window, you could see the backyard equipped with a makeshift, dirt laden, basketball court, and a yellow swing set with a teeter-totter attached to it.  The metal poles that hold a clothesline stand erect beside the swing set.  There is an apartment building two stories high diagonally behind the yard, along with a wooded area. The wooded area was bigger before the apartment building was built.

This is the house where I first saw MTV. This is the house where I cooked my first meal. This is the house that burned down and it was rebuilt. This is the house where our houseguests included my grandfather, various aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends. This is the house where I had my first sleepover. This is also the house where I saw my father kiss another woman, while my mother cooked his dinner inside. This is also the house where a woman threatened to kill my mother. This is the house where I witnessed my father beat my mother to the point that one of her pretty eyes was closed for days at a time, and she had to wear sunglasses, even when it was raining outside. This is the house where my father told me that if I told anyone about the abuse he inflicted on my mother, he would hate me for the rest of my life. This is the house my mother, my brothers, and I left behind. A few months after we left, a tornado came and destroyed this house as if God targeted it because of all the evil the Devil built there.

July 1990

I was fourteen years old, and my mother and I got into a huge fight. She sent me to my dad via Greyhound bus. However, I didn’t spend much time with him. I stayed with my aunt who didn’t live far from my old home. I suggested  my cousins and I go a pay a special visit to my home. I was curious to see just what happened to it. I was stunned at what we saw.

As we walked toward the house, I immediately noticed the tree I loved to climb was no longer there.  The house was still standing, albeit a burnt up mess. We walked up the driveway, and I stood in the front yard and stared at the house, speechless, not believing this is the home I left three years earlier. I walked to the carport and looked through the kitchen window, and everything was still in order, just blackened by the lighting strike that hit it. I walked around to my old bedroom window and looked at my stuff still in place; only now it was blackened. My brothers’ and parents’ room looked the same. The house leaned to the right a little bit, but I wanted to walk through the house. My cousins wouldn’t allow it. I walked back to the front yard, and a tear fell from my eye as I remembered all the times I had in that home. I envisioned playing in my room with my best friend and our “babies”. I remembered jumping out my brothers’ bedroom window after I was told not to, and getting a whooping because of my disobedience.  I sat on the porch and looked at where I dug holes to play in the mud, and I still saw the remnants of broken sticks where I buried the worms I fried with a magnifying glass. I saw all us neighborhood kids playing kickball in the field next to our house. I heard my mother call my name because it was getting dark. Nostalgia hit me, and I cried. Cried for the life I left behind and all the good memories I shared. My cousin pulled me up, and said, “I think it’s enough for now. Let’s go back to my house.” I slowly got up and sulked off, looking over my shoulder as we rounded the corner to walk the four blocks back to their home. I cried the whole way there, and I wondered why my dad didn’t do anything about the house. Why didn’t he fix it like before? How could he just let our home burn like that? Did he not want us to come back?

The divorce was final that October. After fourteen years of marriage, three years separated, my parents were split permanently. The house was sold as part of the divorce settlement. My old home was no longer my old home on paper, but it was still my home in my heart.

May 2007

Memphis in May is a month long event held every spring in Memphis, TN. My brothers and I decided we would take a trip to visit the family, some of which I hadn’t seen in over fifteen years. We couldn’t go near our old neighborhood and not visit; so on our way to Memphis, I drove down the familiar street, Broadway. I laughed because the Church’s Chicken was still there, although it had been remodeled. There were some new things in the area, but for the most part, everything was the same. I made that right onto South 16th Street as the summer sun settled in its usual resting spot.

I slowly drove past the old Jordan’s house, where my best friend lived. Visions of us running up and down the street and playing hopscotch in the middle of the street came to mind.  As I slowly drove past the Smith’s home and saw that the mean old Chow was still there, I noticed the neighborhood had changed. No kids were out playing, no adults were on their porches. I had heard about the various neighbors moving or passing away through the years. A part of me still expected to see those things I was accustomed to twenty years ago.

I drove past Miss LaVera’s house, still that same soft shade of pink I recalled from fifteen years ago. I got to my house, my old home, and there was nothing there. It was just an empty lot with a foundation. Obviously, someone was building a new house. I pulled into the driveway and parked the car. I got out the car, and stood in the yard and stared at the empty white concrete foundation that used to be my home. My brother, the middle child, got out and put his arm around me as a comfort. My brother, the baby, got out the car and didn’t understand why my mood shifted.  Essentially, the emptiness of my home, or lack of, made me feel strange as if something that once stood so strong could end up being blown away into nothingness. We sighed, hugged, and got back in the car and drove off, the darkness engulfing the nostalgia that I had for my home.


1 comment so far

  1. Your Garden on

    Homage To My Home (Part 1)By Angenita Childs…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

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