One of my favorite fellow bloggers lives in her family home where she spent her teenage years and where she returned to when her mother needed help before her death. She has recently been dong what she calls “An Archeological Dig” cleaning out the storage room where the family stashed everything that nobody could figure out what to do with, but that they MIGHT want sometime later.
I could never do that. I came from a nomad family (Papa worked for Shell Chemical Co. back in the days when oil companies and their subsidiaries moved employees every three or four years.) After I married, my husband was in the Air Force, and we moved at least every three years. Every time we moved, I either had to sort through all our stuff, and throw out most of it, or we had to take it with us. The Air Force wouldn’t move more than 2000 pounds overseas. In case you didn’t know, a baby bed and clothes, pots and pans, books, and toys for two adults and two kids takes up the lion’s share of 2000 pounds. We could store anything we wanted to keep, but you never were sure what shape the stuff was going to be in when you returned to reclaim it 3-4 years later. There were some horror stories of people who had confidently stored their belongings when leaving their home base in Florida, only to receive a message that a hurricane had destroyed the warehouse where everything was stored. “Do you remember exactly what you had? We’re doing our best to sort through whatever survived, but it’s all pretty waterlogged.”
During WWII, Papa was stationed at the Arsenal just south of Texarkana. He and Mama met, fell in love, and married, and he was shipped overseas within six months of the wedding. I was born while he was in Europe. Mama and I lived with her parents in Texarkana, AR, while he was gone, and that’s the house they brought me home to when I was born. It was a four-bedroom, two story brick house on a shady street. My grandparents had plenty of room for Mama and me. My grandfather was Vice-President of the bank, and my grandmother had a maid (Daisy) who came every day after breakfast. Daisy did the breakfast dishes, made the beds, dusted and vacuumed, cooked dinner (this was the south and dinner was at noon), cleaned up after dinner and went home. It was a gentle life.
Mama was still living with all the privileges of her childhood even with a new baby. Then the war ended, Papa came home and gathered up Mama and me and took us to California where he got his old job with Shell back. I know it must have been a shock for Mama because we lived in three different apartments that were built in a rush to house returning GIs and their families. Gone was Mama’s gentle, Southern life. Mama told tales of shootings in the next building, and raids by the cops.
Thankfully, Shell stepped in and transferred Papa to Houston where they were building one of the refineries that I (as an environmentalist) rail against. We started out living in the downstairs half of a duplex, with decent people living upstairs. But when my sister made her appearance, the apartment was too small, and Mama and Papa were able to rent a house with a yard. After a year there, we moved closer to Papa’s work, and rented a house in Pasadena. My second sister was born shortly thereafter, and when she made her appearance we rented a different house, close to my elementary school, and in a little bit nicer neighborhood.
I was just finishing third grade when Papa got transferred back to California to work on a new plant in the east-bay area of San Francisco. Mama moved me and the sisters back to Texarkana while Papa went out to California to find us a house. He rented a decent 3-bedroom ranch in Concord, flew back to Pasadena, supervised the movers, a flew back to Concord to meet the moving van. Mama, the sisters, and I got there in time for me to be the “new girl” in 4th grade. While we were in Concord, my brother was bon.
After 6th grade, we all went to Texarkana to spend the summer. While we were there Papa got transferred (again), this time to New Jersey. Once again Papa supervised the movers who packed everything. They took great care of our stuff – when we unpacked all the boxes we found they had carefully wrapped up broken toys and pieces of crayon.
We bought a house in Westfield and stayed there through my teenage years. It was a big four-bedroom Victorian house with a full attic and a full basement. I had a room of my own, that looked over the next door garden. We finally had a place to stash stuff. Up until then we had to dump whatever we weren’t actually using at the time.
I loved the attic. I would spend hours up there, looking through boxes of photographs, and the scrapbooks Mama made while she waited for Papa to come home. My grandmother offloaded a lot of memorabilia that had been gathering dust at her house because we never had a place to put it in any of the houses we lived in. There were racks of hanging clothes waiting for the next kid to grow into them. I finally had something to do with all my “treasures”.
When I graduated from high school, I returned to live with my grandparent in Texarkana. That’s nine houses by the time I graduated from High School. – Nomads!