Continuing on my Life Story posts, I am choosing to combine a few topics this week. I’ll start with my childhood home, and move on to the cities I have lived since leaving that home.
While I was born on a now decommissioned Army base in California, I grew up in Northwest Louisiana. For most of my childhood, we lived in a single story boxy ranch style house built in the mid 1950s and renovated before we lived there to close in the carport and add a bonus room in the back of the house. It was rather large, with 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. My 2 sisters and I each had out own room on the right side of the house and shared a bathroom, while my parent’s had the master bedroom and bathroom which was the renovated carport. The neighborhood was close to the Air Force base, and was somewhat boxy with the main street being about 3/4 of a mile long and the cross streets being 1/4 of a mile long. There was a park at one end and off the main drag there was a gas station and a restaurant in the middle. Our house was on a moderate hill, and a 6-ft drainage ditch ran behind the house. There was an easy access point to the ditch 3 streets down from my house, and we played there during dry weather.
I remember pushing my car in neutral down the street so I could sneak out at nights, and I remember getting caught when I got comfortable sneaking out before my parents were asleep. I remember the entire house being covered in Christmas lights (think National Lampoon’s level here) and being able to give directions as the “brightest house on the street.” I remember most of the neighborhood flooding and that hill saved our house. I remember my grandmother staying with us when my Dad had his heart surgeries. I remember my aunt living around the corner and my cousin living with us for a little while. I remember another cousin breaking her arm when we pushed a wagon down the hill. I remember the pecan tree in our next door neighbor’s yard and being convinced I saw a ghost when I saw someone I didn’t recognize. I remember the blackberry brambles along our back fence and putting the juice in the water guns for fights with the neighborhood kids. I had a generally happy childhood, and most of it happened here.
I lived in that house from 1st grade (Kindergarten was at a house my parents rented before buying) until I graduated high school. I went to college in Natchitoches, LA. Natchitoches is the first settlement of the Louisiana purchase, so it has a lot of historic town ambiance about it. It was also the setting for Steel Magnolias, and the festival shown in the movie is an annual event which lasts most of December. There is a replica of an 18th Century fort with actual living history re-enactors. My parents moved to Washington state during my sophomore year, so I got out of living on campus a bit early. I moved 5 times while I was in college, basically every time my lease was up. I worked at a hotel as a night clerk, at a buffet on the front counter, and at a tchotchke shop during my time there. When my (now ex) husband and I graduated, we moved to Fort Benning, GA to start his military career.
I only lived at Fort Benning for 6 months, and we lived in a hotel on base the entire time. It was only an additional $5/day for me to stay in the hotel while he was at OCS. It was a very weird time, because our orders were temporary and I couldn’t get a job, and didn’t even have a kitchen. I spent a lot of time on the internet in chat rooms for outside contact. I do remember meeting folks in Atlanta and enjoying some weekends spending time in the city. Our next orders were to Fort Campbell, KY and we lived on base for almost a year. About 3 months after we moved, my ex got deployed, so I began looking for a job. I worked for AAFES at a gas station for a few months on the evening shift. I still kick myself for not holding out for the better AAFES job at the furniture store, because working at a gas station sucked. I soon got a job an hour away as a sales person at an inbound call center. I moved to the edge of Clarksville, TN (which is the town outside Fort Campbell) so I was half way between my work and the ex’s office on base.
I spent 2 years in that apt in Clarksville. I didn’t really do much in the city itself since I was driving an hour each way to work and as a sales maker, much of the time I was working 10-12 hour days with random days off. Since most of my friends were from the internet, I spent a lot of time traveling when I had time off to other cities to visit with folks. I remember long chats in the car during my commute with both my Dad and Good Sarah, and sometimes whoever would answer the phone! I imported friends to move to my city; I got them jobs where I worked and an apt in the complex I lived in. In hindsight, this wasn’t the smartest move for me either emotionally or fiscally, but life lessons and all. I spent a lot of time waiting for my ex to get out of the military, so our life could start. I didn’t realize that I’d put my life on hold because I wasn’t happy with any of it.
My ex got new orders out-of-state for the last year of his commitment. We bought a house in Nashville, TN when we knew this would happen and some of those above friends lived in it for a year. I moved in when he left the state, and I ended up leaving him a few months later. It worked out that I got to keep the house. It was 15 mins away from my work which was such a great change of pace from my previous commute. A friend from Natchitoches moved in with me and helped me paint the rooms and make them my own. We eventually ripped out all the carpet and put in bamboo floors and a slate tile hearth. I bought real furniture for the first time, not the random assortment of cast off acquired from friends or left over from college. I remember my sister and her kids coming for Christmas one year, and my parents the year after. I remember the Bradford pears in the spring and the snow in the winter. I went to music festivals and karaoke bars (man in Nashville, it’s like live music – so many talented people). I went camping with friends and when my schedule allowed I went to a random SCA event (always Gulf Wars).
I interviewed and got a position with my company in Austin, TX. I moved there with the toxic ex, but he left me after a few months. I took a week off work, and my Dad came to help me get the old house ready to sell. Thankfully it sold quickly, and I was able to begin my road to fiscal (and emotional) recovery. I found an apartment complex within 15 mins from work with a view of some uncleared brush they called a “preserve.” There were bunnies, birds, raccoons, and even a deer once, and the landscaping was nice. I stayed in that complex the entire time I lived in Austin, even though I upgraded apartments to one with a view of the manicured quad later. It was the first time I’d ever lived alone, and it was amazing. I wasn’t in the call center any more and with weekends free, I started playing SCA again. I also made friends at work and friends through the internet that lived in town. I had a very active social life. We went tubing, to college events, music festivals (Austin and Nashville have similar feels as cities go), learned to shoot, and most importantly – healed.
I moved to Little Rock, AR for B. His daughter is here, and my company has a very tolerant remote work policy. Up to this point in my life, I had always moved for practical reasons and this was the first I’d made for mostly personal ones. The first winter after I moved, it began snowing on Christmas right after we returned from visiting B’s family. By the next morning, we were snowed in without any power. B lives at the bottom of hill in a cul-de-sac, so getting out of the neighborhood was impossible. Thankfully we are both in the SCA and have enough camping gear to make coffee and food, and a propane heater strong enough to heat one room. Our neighbors’ zombie apocalypse plans now include us (we don’t have the heart to tell them that we wouldn’t stay in town). My average tenure in a city has been about 3 years thus far, and right before my 4th year here, I got seriously itchy feet. It’s when B and I began looking for a new house and discussing location options for my career since I had gotten my MBA.
I decided to stay here. Hopefully the travel will scratch my itchy feet, and settling down will be good for me. I would have never picked Little Rock on a map of places to settle down, but it’s close-ish to home and family and our SCA friends here are great. I don’t do as many events and activities as I used to, but aging cools the desire to always be on the go. The new place is much better for entertainment, so hopefully we’ll host more in the future.