In response to The Daily Post’s October 6th writing prompt: “Our House.”
The house I first knew was the one I was brought home to when released from Mission Memorial Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. We lived in Leicester, specifically, which didn’t really have all that much to do with Asheville, in those days. A very careful inspection of this photograph of a hand-drawn scene will show it was made in 1985, which was one year before I was born. Of course, when I left that house, my family was moving to a different state, and I was ten years old. At that time, the small sapling in this picture was a tree taller than the house, and it had comrades scattered about, as well. The juniper bushes at the base of the brick had become giant ecosystems in their own right, and the bush on the right-hand corner here was actually brushing that second-story window.
I remember this house so fondly because I left it at age ten. For the eight years after that, I would always wish I still lived there, regardless of how old childhood friends would tell me upon rare visits, “No, you’re lucky you got out! There’s nothing to do here! So lame.” I firmly believed that home was where the heart was, and I had Left My Heart in San Asheville-o. Today, even, I have seen this house recently, and though it is quite different, the basics are still there: the house itself is unaltered, and well-kept. The grass around it is still the greenest and most lush in the world. The Appalachian vista behind it, capped by Mount Pisgah in the distance, is still as breath-taking, astounding, yet comforting and soothing as it ever was. As the native son of my home city accurately wrote, You Can Never Go Home Again, but sometimes it looks just as beautiful as we remember it. His point would be, of course, that it hasn’t been inhabited by me in twenty years.
My earliest memories are of playing in that house by myself. I was and am an only child, and I became a master of keeping myself entertained. Boredom has never been something I experienced nor understood. Friends came to visit every now and again, but hardly regularly, and never often enough, we felt. I was caught in the midst of that strange phenomenon known as rural-living-but-urban-private-schooling. I mostly saw others when at school or church, since there weren’t many kids in my neighborhood. I was usually playing by myself when at home, and I have never regretted a moment of it. Remembering all the fun I had out-of-doors, I recall only now that I was almost never allowed outside alone. Only these days can I begin to guess why.
A very early memory of mine was an evening when I decided I would beat my parents at hide-and-seek. I figured it would be most advantageous to surprise them with the game, so I did not inform them that they were participating. I crawled under the large, round coffee table in the living room (my favorite room, for it was the couch there that often became my pillow fort) and stayed silent and still. Soon, my parents realized that the game was afoot, and they began hurrying around the house, calling my name. I stifled many giggles, as I knew I would be victorious. I could see their feet running into and out of the living room, sometimes right by my table. I ignored their pleas and commands, regardless of how they told me that it wasn’t a game anymore, because I knew I was winning the game, and if I came out, my plan wouldn’t work. Doors slammed, neighbors were telephoned, my Dad ran around the house and up and down the street as my Mom frantically dialed nearby families. The only thing I don’t remember is when and why I decided I had finally, officially won, and the game was done. I do know that my parents had just sat down in the living room to wait for the police and some friends when I declared my victory loudly and emerged triumphant from under the table. I am sure they must have almost died from shock and surprise when I showed up right in the middle of the house they had already scoured thrice over.
In hindsight, I believe it is completely understandable that I was never allowed to roam our neighborhood, or even our yard, free of supervision. That luxury was only afforded in our next house, when I was in my teens, since my parents became even busier with work, and I grew up and became even more independent. Perhaps, though, it was something about having lived on a ridgetop that commanded the area, sparsely populated though it was, full of the kind of vistas that create photography and artistic careers, that really kept me from ever realizing that I usually played alone. Books, music, video games, these were things I became very familiar with, and delightfully shared them with friends when they could make it over. Most of them were also the only child in their family, or near enough, and perhaps we all experienced that growing up. I can only say, for myself, that my parents raised me fairly, lovingly, and with joy, laughter and fun, even if they kept very close tabs on me quite often.
To this day, I constantly find myself yearning to raise my own children in that exact house, even though I live with my wife six hours south of it. Some things never leave our hearts, like a happy childhood.
All works, words and art contained on this blog are the sole creation and intellectual property of Nicholas Biddle unless otherwise indicated. They may not be reproduced or used in any way without proper credit and consent. Thanks for reading and enjoying!