The front porch..
“I believe that one can never leave home. I believe that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and the dragons of home under one’s skin, at the extreme corners of one’s eyes and possibly in the gristle of the earlobe.” ― Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter
Where did you live when you were 12?
When I was 12, it was 1978. We lived in a tropical paradise. With tropical being bold and underlined. It was freaking HOT. It was Miami, Florida in a house with no air-conditioning, built in the ’40’s. It was hot-I think I said that.., it was humid and it was torture for a 12 year old with hair that became huge with humidity. A giant bush. Using the blow dryer, trying to make it half-way straight, my own sweat would sabotage the effort. I gave up trying to look pretty when I was 12. It was fruitless.
The house was all jalousie windows, 3 bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a big eat-in kitchen and a big florida room (sunroom) that was separated from the house by three large sliding glass doors. The house was cement block, raised off the ground a few feet. It was pink when my parents bought it and my mom painted it one week while my dad was out of town. Everyone, including neighbors, hated that color. My mom worked really hard on it and when my dad came home he didn’t even notice. The one and only time in my whole childhood that I ever saw my mom unhappy with my dad. To his defense, she painted it just another shade of pink…I think to irritate the neighbors.
The kitchen was the best place in the house. Large wood cabinets, wallpaper with repetitive, sweet farm scenes that my mom wallpapered all by herself. A solid wood kitchen table that could seat 6 people sat in the middle of the kitchen. We ate there at every meal. My mom, dad, two brothers and I along with anyone else that happened to be hanging around. My mom was the ultimate chef. The mom all the other kids that had working moms would come to see when I wasn’t even home. She would bake cookies, cakes, had food and unconditional love for every moment. It was a safe place for anyone.
Beautiful pine wood floors throughout the house, ceramic tile in the florida room and kitchen. A big, cherry color wooden, upright piano along the wall facing the front door. My mom played it a lot. I was its duster. A mounted swordfish was hung above the piano. It was as long as the piano and I had to dust that too.
There was a semi-cirular, paved driveway that took you in one gate, passing by the front door and out the other gate. Two, 50 foot high, Royal Palms stood out in front of the house, just across the driveway in front of the front door. When a palm frond would fall, it sounded like an explosion when it hit the ground, scaring everyone. It was at least an acre of land which was huge for that area in Miami. Any fruit tree that can come to your mind was in that yard. Bananas, lychee, starfruit, oranges, avocado, mangos of every variety, tangerines, mulberry trees..cumquat, loquat…I’m sure I am forgetting some. The starfruit tree was huge and was right outside the florida room providing much appreciated shade from the blistering sun.
When opting for putting air-conditioning in versus building a pool, my parents built the pool. If you complained of being hot, the response was always ‘go swimming’..’If you’re hot, get in the pool’..makes me laugh to this day. Now whenever I am hot, I subconsciously am looking for a pool.
We also had a lot of dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits and a pony. When I was 12 my brother died in a motorcycle accident. My brother was 15. That was the house that I lost that innocent piece of life that comes prior to experiencing death first hand. There is nothing like losing a sibling and seeing the crushing of ones own parents with the loss of a child. I’ll never forget the front steps of that house, seeing my parents coming home from the hospital without him. Seeing my mom sitting at the kitchen table with the phone, calling family and friends with the news, my dad sadly pounding the bar with his fist.. Running outside to find consolation from my pony. The stages of grief, the time for healing and the gift of being able to move on. That house had it all.
I was 12 in 1978, living in a tropical paradise.