This is a year of double milestones: my mother’s house turns 75 and (as of Oct. 30) she will have been living there for 50 years.
She grew up as part of an itinerant sharecropping family during the Great Depression, so I’m glad she has enjoyed all these decades of stability. (I lived in the house from age 10 to age 31.)
One of Mom’s friends dubbed the property “El Rancho Rocky” because of the ample supply of limestone, but the Tyree family pulled together to make something of the place. (Mom was 91 when she finally gave up mowing the five-acre yard for herself.)
Much has changed about the Tyree property and the neighborhood, but many landmarks remain relatively unchanged.
For instance, the Osage orange (French bois d’arc) trees that litter the ground with hedgeapples. And the massive hackberry tree in the front yard. My father suffered his fatal heart attack while sitting beneath it, but Mom prefers to reminisce about the time I sassed her as a teen. She wearied of chasing me around and around the tree trying to discipline me, so she “cut the Gordian knot” by reaching through the tree fork and grabbing me!
The “old O’Neal house” was built sturdily enough of brick and hardwood; but it has had numerous close calls, such as the April 1974 tornado that swept through the front yard, throwing the rail fence into the road and wrapping the tin roofs of outbuildings around utility poles.
Then there was the lightning bolt that struck right outside the garage door mere seconds after my brother put up his motorcycle.
Indoors, someone was standing in the right spot at the right time to catch the dining room chandelier that had been shaken loose by the horseplay of Dad’s Webelos Scout den upstairs.
Let’s not forget the grass fire I ignited while playing with matches. (On second thought, let’s DO forget that visit by the fire department.)
Only three automobile wrecks have occurred in front of the house, but countless dogs and cats have been “clobbered” (to use Dad’s terminology) by speeding motorists. Dear old Turf the ginger tomcat was laid to rest near the northwest corner of the house more than 30 years ago.
Mom has a TV, cellphone and microwave oven, but she takes perverse pride in not letting her domicile be invaded by a dishwasher, clothes dryer, internet, cable TV or satellite dish.
I have so many memories of that place: standing in the yard squinting at the disappointing smudge that was the 1986 appearance of Halley’s Comet; listening to “Gospel Time” on the radio in the former breakfast nook; watching a neighbor lady chase her husband through their yard with a butcher knife. (“Woman killer!” he was shrieking. “Killer woman” would probably have been more accurate, but artistic license and marriage license make a good two-fer.)
Oh, to have a time-lapse video of all the changes the neighborhood has gone through in five decades! Alas, the comings and goings have become a blur.
I hope my mother spends many more good years in that house. And I hope each of you will stop and smell the roses (the metaphorical roses – not hers!) and leave a record of the friends, pets and events that distinguish the little slice of the world that YOU call home.