Monthly Archives: July 2012

Summer all nighters…

Sleeping outside in a tent in the yard was always a cool thing to do in the summer.  There were times when we would start out doing it but it would be too darn hot.  Or the mosquitoes would be so bad they would tote you away… but when the weather was right… it was the best!

Actually sleeping outside is a misnomer.  We didn’t technically sleep outside.  We would just stay up all night outside and then came in once the sun came up and go to bed.  And some of these nights we would even stay in the yard through the whole night.  But then again, there were “those” nights.  The ones where adventures in far off places would be calling our names and we just couldn’t resist the temptation of it all!

One thing we would do is go over to the hospital and go into the concessions area off of the emergency room.  The hospital was only about 3 blocks from the house so it was easily walkable or we could ride our bikes.  There was something exciting about walking the halls of the hospital at 2:00 in the morning…  avoiding the security guard  who seemed to have issue with teenage boys just wandering the halls at that time of day.

There also was another major temptation close by.  The Vicki Villa Restaurant and Motel had a swimming pool…. it was located right out front on Hwy 17… just calling our names.  We just had to climb over the fence, strip down and go skinny dipping.  That was so refreshing and liberating… well, at least until the cops would show up….   Nothing more exciting in a young man’s life than to find himself, clothes in hand, completely naked, running down the middle of a major US highway being pursued by the local police.  I guess it was a good thing the TV show “Cops” didn’t exist back in the day….

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It was a little dog boogie kinda thing….

My mom was pretty talented musically when she was younger.  She played the piano for the Glee Club back when she was in high school.   At some point she also started playing the organ from some of the churches in Elizabeth City too.  As a result of her love of the piano and the organ it was only natural that her children should also play.

This is where the trouble started.  While I love all kinds of music.  I never had the patience to practice the piano like you needed to  if you were going to become proficient at playing…. particularly if that was going to interfere with my playing around time.   But I did like the fact that I got out of class for a half hour once a week for my piano lesson.

Mrs. Sharp, my piano teacher would come out to the school and would have 30 minute sessions with a bunch of us one on one.  I always liked getting out of class but I was never prepared like I should have been.  This was because my mother had to threaten me within an inch of my life to make me practice.  I remember sitting at that piano for hours at the time… refusing to do anything, just because I didn’t want to do it….  This was also one of the early struggles between my mom and me.. if you want to see the big struggles check out “The worst day of my life..” blog.

As I mentioned earlier my lack of practice very easily translated into my lack of ability to play.  And this led to one of the most terrifying experiences in the life of Mrs. Sharp… a piano recital which included me on the program!

The last year that I was a student of Mrs. Sharps was the year that I had to play my most complicated piece.  Complicated here means something slightly more complicated than chop sticks… but that’s about it.

I remember the song well.. the name of it was “Little Dog Boogie” by Wesley Schaum.  It is based on where oh where has my little dog gone.  There actually is a video of a girl playing it on YouTube if you want to check it out.  But anyway, back to the recital.

I was pretty nervous because I could barely get through the thing even though it wasn’t very long or complicated at all.  And I could tell Mrs. Sharp felt the same way.  As I approached the piano to perform in front of all of Mrs. Sharp’s piano students and their parents, I suddenly felt at ease…. like this wasn’t going to be too bad.

So I sat down at the piano.  Oh, I failed to mention, you had to do this without the sheet music… so I’m just kinda staring straight ahead.  I am just getting starting when all of a sudden my mind goes blank.  I literally couldn’t remember a single note I was suppose to be playing.  Somehow my hands just seemed to take over and just started improvising something.. I have no clue what but just as quick as it left, I found my way again and actually finished the piece as it was written.

As I stood to take my bow and leave, I could see the total shock on Mrs. Sharp’s face…. and my mom’s too.  Whatever it was I did, I somehow managed to pull it off without anyone else there knowing I had messed up.

I was so glad to finally be through with that…. and shortly after that, we moved back to Elizabeth City so I finally wiggled my neck out of that piano noose.  And now, some 40+ years later…. I kinda wish some days I hadn’t.

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Heading Home pt 4 (closing the chapter…)

It was exhausting.  I was worn completely out and I hadn’t done hardly anything at all.  I had spent a good portion of the day just walking around…. going room to room…. thinking about things that I remember happening in each one… watching sports with dad back in the den, the occasional sandwich with mom, dad and my sister in the kitchen, Christmas days in the living room and the occasional holiday meal in the dining room.  I even spent time down in the garage thinking about the time I spent down there messing with bikes and doing laundry (it’s where the washer and dryer are   located… what can I say).

As I mentioned yesterday, I ended this final visit by sitting in the swing in the front yard.  As I was driving away, I just couldn’t leave.  I have no idea when I would be back again… if ever… and the memories weren’t restricted to my mom and dad’s house.  I have memories all over the town.  So I headed back into town and down Broad St…. by my grandmother’s houses…

They looked a little more run down than I remember seeing them but I could still see my grandparents on both porches… and for a moment smell the smells of wonderful foods once again filling the air.  And with each breath and each scene my heart grew heavier and heavier with sadness.

I decided I couldn’t take the sadness any more…. so I headed to the one place where I always found comfort…. I headed to the river.  There is always something about the river that just calms me down… just like the beach… it brings things back into perspective for me and creates a serenity I don’t find anywhere else.

So as I knew things were coming to a close on this phase of my life, I spent the last hours of my time… at home…. on the narrows….

Grandma Violet and Papa Rufus’ House

Grandma Affie’s House

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Heading Home pt. 3

It really wasn’t much of a house… just an ordinary house located on an ordinary street in an ordinary neighborhood.  While every house in the neighborhood was different (unlike the developments of today when every house looks identical) they were all fairly similar in size.  It was funny that every house had a garage… and not a soul parked their car in them.  I guess everyone thought they were just huge storage rooms added on to the end of the house.

As I pulled into the drive I couldn’t help but think about all of the loads of dirt I had spread over this yard.  I built this yard up an additional 6 inches using just a shovel and a wheelbarrow.  There must have been 25 truckloads of dirt that I spread over this yard.  What a summer that was.

And there was a yard lamp out by the drive that never worked.  The ivy just kept growing over it until it looked like a  green version of Marge Simpson’s hair.  And there was the pecan tree in the back yard.  The tree must be 45 -50 feet tall.  It was a volunteer that came up in my grandmothers yard and we transplanted here oh so many years ago… and from what I could tell on my last visit, it looks like it’s going to be a good year for pecans, assuming the squirrels and wild hogs don’t get them all.

I sat in the swing where my dad use to sit all the time and look at the traffic coming into the neighborhood… and I took another few minutes to relive many of the stories I have shared here.  I don’t doubt that there will be more of them… but I’m not sure they will feel quite the same.

Life has a tendency to do that, doesn’t it?  If someone had told me 5 years ago I would be where I am today I wouldn’t have believed it… my dad is gone, my mom has moved to Florida, and just about every other aspect of my life is… well, it is what it is… and now our home of 43 years is ours no more.

I know that I  spend a lot of time here reminiscing… but, we have to live life today… so that we will all have things to reminisce about tomorrow.

So as the swing glided to a stop, I stood up… stared at the house one last time, got in my car and backed out of the driveway at 105 Rosedale Drive…. one last time.

Mom and Dad’s home from 1969….

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Heading Home pt. 2 (In my room….)

I just stood in the doorway staring into the room.  It looks to be about 11 x 11 square.  The walls are very plain and to my knowledge there has never been any kinds of pictures mounted on any of them.  The only thing that was ever attached to the walls that I can remember was a small personalized bulletin board where some pictures and few personal awards were displayed.  But they were all gone now.  So was all of the furniture.  Even the familiar carpet was gone.  The only familiar item still present was the curtains.  I have no idea how long those curtains had been there but I can’t ever remember them not being there…

This little room was my room.  My personal things began to occupy this space back in August 1969.  But today… well, today there is nothing there.  The sun light fights its way through the closed curtains giving off a light that I have seen in the room thousands of times.  There isn’t anything left  so I just sat down on the floor right in the doorway and stared into the emptiness.   The closet doors were closed so it made the room feel even smaller.

For years this place was my refuge… the place where I could get away from the world.  When things got difficult I would retreat here, spending time alone.. with my thoughts… with my music from my 8-track tapes or my radio or just in total silence with nothing at all on my mind.

I spent many hours there… not only sleeping… but being nervous about school… about the work I hadn’t done or that I knew I hadn’t done my best on or was I really ready for the test coming up the next day.  I spent hours being angry at my parents for not understanding me… they just had no idea what it was like to be me.  I spent hours unable to sleep because I was so excited about what the next day would bring.. time with friends… trips to the beach… vacation trips to the mountains.  I spent many hours there crying… because I didn’t get my way… or I had a fight with my parents or that special someone didn’t feel the way I felt…

It felt strange staring at that space… it meant so much at times and now it was just an 11 x 11 bedroom being sold with the rest of the spaces I called home.  So I stood up, looked around it one last time… wiped away the tears and turned back up the hall for the last time…

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Heading Home pt. 1

It was a drive I had made thousands of times in my life.  This can be a good thing or a bad one… good in the sense that it is familiar and comfortable… bad in the sense that it is easy for your mind to wander.  This was more of a bad thing on this trip.  My mind drifted back to January 1977 when drove it the first time.  Then the drive would take a little over 4 hours because I-95 had not been completed yet so you had to get off at Kenly and take Hwy 301  back to Wilson and then take 42 through Pinetops to Conetoe to pick up 64.  Hwy 64 back then was two lane and went through downtown Bethel and Robersonville and Everitts.  There was no by pass around anything.  you had to drive through Williamston and Windsor and Edenton too.

But this trip was different.  Everything is by passed now.  This makes it so easy to set your car on cruise control and just get lost in your thoughts.  Which is exactly what happened to me.  This trip was almost the exact opposite of the 1977 trip.  That was a trip of new beginnings… a trip to the college of my future… the promise of my future looming out in front of me.  High school graduation was finally just a few months away.  Every day from the day of that drive through June was just so exciting… so promising… so hopeful.

My sister and I have been working over the last year or so cleaning out our mom’s house.  There were days when we both wondered if we would ever get through it all.  Forty plus years of living in one location had allowed for lots of time for things to build up and boy, had they ever!  But finally that is all behind us.  I am on my way home…. for the last time.  No longer will the residents at that plain, simple house on Rosedale Drive have the last name of White.

The finality of this trip just sits on my shoulder and claws at my brain.  The shear volume of my thoughts cause my shoulders to drop under their weight.  For the first time in 5 or 6 generations none of the direct lines of any of my families are in northeastern North Carolina.  When will I ever come back up here again or even will this be the last time I ever make this trip?  So as I reach Tarboro, I am able to connect with 102.5 “The Shark” radio station from down on the Outer Banks and the songs of my youth help lighten the load a little.

But even with the company and comfort those songs bring me, my stomach is in knots as I cross the Chowan River bridge in Edenton.. and then the Perquimans River Bridge in Herford.   Then I see the sign, Elizabeth City city limits…  I take a deep breath… let out an audible sigh… and drive on.

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Seeking words and the ability to stand again….

I have not written in a couple of days.  There is a very specific reason for this…  There are moments in our lives that have impact…. actually I guess all moments have impact but most of them are insignificant ones… the ones that come and go without much notice, if any at all.  But then there are others…. those moments that affect us so deeply that it sets up back on our heels.  Some of these can fabulous, glorious moments that we are so excited to see and want them to last forever.  Others are the opposite…. they are the moments that stop us still…. and sometimes bring us to our knees…. these are the moments that have been hitting me a lot lately.  I won’t go into a lot of what these events have been but the body blows have taken their toll on me.  The last two days really brought a lot of it to a head.

I write this just to say, that there are a couple of blogs that I am working on that will be coming very soon…   Whether we live life on the Narrows fighting our way upstream… or whether we have the wind at our backs in a down wind run… there are days that the words are just hard to find.  My friends, know that I am finding them again.. and they will be here soon.

My thanks to you all for taking this journey with me… your presence here is what enables me to get back up off my knees… and continue to move forward…  Your friendships are what makes it all worthwhile.

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