Monday, January 3, 2011

The Lavender House

As a military brat, my time at home was divided up into 2- or 3-year increments. Here is a complete list of the places we lived, just for kicks--

Tacoma, Washington (born there)
Fort Bragg, North Carolina (one side of post)
New Jersey
Fort Bragg, North Carolina (the other side of post)
Colorado Springs, Colorado (off-post)
Heidelberg, Germany
S.H.A.P.E., Belgium
Fort Stewart/Hinesville, Georgia
{got married to Phill, and then}:
Fort Carson, Colorado
Cedar City, Utah
Provo, Utah
Cedar City, Utah
St. George, Utah

...and in between those big moves, there were smaller ones. For instance, we moved twice in Panama, from one side to the other. And when Phill and I lived in Colorado, we moved four times--twice off-base, and twice on-base. Not to mention the three different places we lived in Cedar City.

There was definitely enough to keep us seven kids interested and on our toes. Sometimes I find myself getting antsy after a year or so, I'm so used to a change of scene every couple of years.

But some of the most fun we had was when we were in even more-temporary living spaces. One of those was a little lavender house in North Carolina, which we were in for just a few weeks (I think) before we moved on base. I was seven years old.

The house had a fireplace that I loved (and secretly feared), and a tiny sitting room where our green loveseat was. My mom would sit on the loveseat to feed Maddie, the youngest, "our". Or my oldest sibling, my brother Reed, would sit on the couch and read to us younger girls. (photo HERE) Sometimes my oldest sister, Liz (are you keeping track? I'll quiz you later...) would sit on the loveseat and have me sit in front of her while she French-braided my hair. That room felt safe.

In my bedroom was a bunk bed that I shared with my little sister, Qait, and I slept on the top. While my dad was far away in one of those many Army fights, I had his picture taped to my ceiling, a tiny wallet-sized print of him in uniform, that I would look at as I fell asleep each night. Under my arm was a tiny camp-pillow he had given me; it smelled exactly like him. I would look at his picture and pray, many times over, for his safety, nuzzle the pillow next to my face, and fall into sleep.

In the backyard, there was a swingset, and I distinctly remember sitting on the swing, noticing my worn and too-small shoes, when my mom, looking through the kitchen window, must have noticed the same thing. I got new shoes. Not the Barbie ones I wanted, but some sensible white Keds. And so I sat on the swing again, unaware that my mother was (again) watching as I purposely dragged the toes of my brand-new shoes, desperately wanting those stupid Barbie shoes. I remember glancing up to see my mother watching me with half a smile on her face. She opened the window a crack and said with a smile, "You'll want to take care of those shoes." Enough said. She was on to me.

There was the window seat, possibly my favorite spot in the house. Above it was a bay window, and I would sit there and read, or daydream, or lift the lid of the window seat and imagine the awful fate that would befall someone who got stuck in there. (I was a little morbid.)

Outside, there was a green grass and a street-lamp, and I remember picking the fuzzed-over dandelions and running in circles on the grass, watching the little seeds of weeds-to-be taking flight.

I remember that our big, green trash can said, "Cumberland County" on it, and that for the longest time I thought it said, "Cucumberland Country". 

There was one night that I couldn't sleep--at all, and I was earnestly trying--and I could hear music coming from Abby and Liz's room. Music and laughter. I knew that if they were happy and having fun together, they would probably not mind too much if I just laid on one of their beds for a bit. I knocked softly on their door, and Liz opened it. "Are you okay, Rae?" I told her my troubles and she gladly let me lay on the bottom bunk of their bed while she and Abby laughed away on the floor, as The Bangles played on and on. They picked me up off the bed so I could dance with them to Walk Like an Egyptian, and swung me around to Eternal Flame. They willingly included me in their fun and thoroughly exhausted me in the process. I slept like a baby.

Most of all, that lavender house is a safe place, a little holding-place in my mind for memories that are untouched by the incredible grief that followed only a couple of years later, when my dear brother Reed died. In the lavender house, we were all nine, all together.

When people ask me how I handled moving so often, having to adapt as much as we did, I reply that it is because my family is my home.Wherever they were, we called home. And temporary as it was, that house is permanently cemented in my heart, twenty years later.


Qait said...

Even I remember that house.
Your fear of the fireplace wasn't secret, though. :) I remember papa lighting a long stick (like an incense stick) to light the fire, and I got really close while you practically clung to the back wall. I think both you and papa urged me to back away.
I love your "essay" of the Lavender House. I loved that house, too.
Did it have a porch? If so, that's when I found Mom watching the sunset with baby Maddie in her lap, and I wanted to join them, but Mom knew I wasn't wearing panties under my frilly shorts...and I felt torn. I thought if I took the time to put panties on, I'd miss the sunset.
When I came back, the best of it was over, but I did get to sit for a little while. *sigh* And I don't think I would have remembered this if I hadn't had to nearly miss it, you know? That's what made it stick. :)

chucknorris said...

u did it again! u are such a good writer. good job, i love you, keep it up! someday wanna read a book of yours.

Rae said...

Q--I remember that.
Maddie--thank you! I'll send you a first copy. ;)