Monday, January 21, 2008


MOTHER STANDING ON THE TALL STEPS LEADING UP TO THE HOUSE IN ELMWOOD.
Today it has started out at 13 degrees but at least we are not in the single digits like we were yesterday morning, a cold 7 degrees.
This morning I saw on the news a large fire in Boston. I always shutter when I hear such news.
Marcel and Mary's term shack made me think, yes those houses we lived in would have been considered 4 room shacks. However, I guess we were lucky that we could afford to rent even those but beginning shacks they were also fire traps.
I can empathizes with those who have lost their home to fire because not once, nor twice but three times our shacks burnt.
The first it happen, Pa and Grandma were living in the house with us and Pa was a tenant farmer on Al Gore's Aunt and Uncle's farm. I was 8 years old and at that age, I did not understand the magnitude of the situation. As in most old houses the chimney was in the middle of the house with a fireplace in each bedroom and Grandma put a couch in front of the fireplace in their bedroom. Well you can guess what happen a spark from the fireplace in our bedroom ignited the couch and up in smoke everything went.
One of the teachers at school pulled Sis and I out of the bus line that afternoon and told us our house had burned down. Sis started to cry and I took the cue from her and cried too but still not knowing the magnitude of the situation. We stayed for two weeks or more at the big house on the hill of Al's kinfolk. There was running water and indoor plumbing and boxes of clothes were brought to the house and it was like Christmas and a vacation all in one to me. I had more clothes than I had ever owned before.
Later on in life, I was told by my Mother that those two pillars of the community had collected and kept the money collected for us and had taken the best items from the boxes that were brought for us. So now when I hear of people who take advantage of those in such tragedies as tornadoes, etc I think of those two rich old people not poor people who are doing the stealing.
After our two week vacation, we moved to Elmwood on the right side of the Armistead store and lived there happily for years when up one day Mother and Dad said we were moving to the little house on the other side of that store. It was a tiny four room house on stiles so the cold wind could rush up under it and behind it not ten feet away ran the creek. My little brother and I spent many happy hours playing in the creek. Mother would buy us little plastic boats and we would dam up the creek with rocks to play with our boats.
The creek behind that house would rise and get under the house and it was rather scary. The picture above is of the back steps to that house. The front porch was almost on highway 70. Early in the mornings the mail bus would pull over in front of the house and you could look out and see them sorting mail.
The house in Elmwood also had a chimney in the middle but the fireplace in the bedroom was not used. In the living room area, sat a huge cold burning stove which could heat all four rooms of the house but rarely did that happen. My parents wanted to save coal so we usually only heated the living area and opened up the kitchen when it was in use. The bedrooms were not heated at all.
I was in my second year of high school and had been out on a date and I was very tired and sleepy. Dad worked the second shift in a factory thirty miles away and had gotten home to find the closet next to the chimney was on fire. He and Mother rushed to get as much as they could out of the house but first Dad carried a sleeping little brother to the car and then Mother turned me over in bed and said the house was on fire. I turned back over and went back to sleep.
When Mother got back outside she looked around and I was not there so in a panic she came back into the house and literally threw me out of bed. That woke me up. She said hurry or you will burn up. I could see flames licking the ceiling of the bedroom but noticed I did not have on any shoes, so I went back to the bed and slipped on my shoes. Mother poked her head in again and yelled "I said get out of there". I obeyed.
It was a horrible feeling standing out in the freezing cold watching everything go up in flames. We all got in the car and headed down to my big Sis's home to stay. Again I got to experience running water and indoor plumbing. We stayed there about a month and Mother and Dad finally found a small house in South Carthage and it was the beginning of never having to carry water again. How sweet? The bathroom was added onto the house on the back porch but it was a shear luxury.
I really like this house and it was close to high school so the bus ride was not long but little brother was still going to the school several miles away therefore, Mom and Dad opted to move back to the small community of Elmwood. We lived in a big old house across highway 70 from where the little house burnt.
After I started working in Nashville and communing back and forth we moved farther up highway 70 . I began buying furniture, a bedroom suite with a ball bed and a dresser that came with it that had a huge round mirror and had two large drawers on either side and it was lower in the middle with a stool to sit in front of to put on your makeup. I also bought a long wooden record player.
Finally I convinced my parents that it was hard riding the Greyhound bus to and from Nashville and I moved into the YMCA downtown which was less than a block from the building I worked in. During this time, that old house burned due to faulty wiring. The house had been converted to use big 220 heaters and apparently it needed to be rewired but was not done. Therefore, for the third and final time our house burn down. This time all was lost.
I guess that is why I like old things and pictures as what pictures I have were given to us by family members and none of my childhood toys or books survived.
The Kitty Justice is don't think it cannot happen to you as it can and has happen to me THREE TIMES.

6 comments:

Changes in the wind said...

Unimaginable! I am so sorry for all these losses. A house fire destroys more than just the house but all the memories. Am glad you have pictures from other family members but am sorry you were not able to keep some of the many things that you loved.

Mary said...

Lady Di,

How horrible that three times in your life you have experienced your home burning. Once would be very difficult to deal with but three times... there are no words to describe it.

I did enjoy the other parts of your story. The photo is precious and your imaging is terrific. I felt like I was right there alongside you when you were describing things. You have been blessed with a writing talent.

Our bedrooms weren't heated either. We had a coal heater in the kitchen and a small oil stove in the living room. I remember waking up in the morning and writing on the beautiful frost etchings on our windows.

Take care, my friend. I do hope you will write more about your childhood.

Love and blessings,
Mary

Mary said...

PS. Shamu didn't get us wet. We were there early and took a seat high up out of the splash zone.

Lady Di Tn said...

Those old houses were fire traps and the wood was like a well season piece of firewood and when a spark idgnited up they went.

I must make a correction it was the YWCA but I am sure you figured that one out or my parents would not have let me move. Lots of young girls stayed there and worked downtown and it was fun to meet all of them. The boys Y was right across the street at that time and I can remember several of them having conversations across the street with each other.

If you go back to the other post with my painting you will see the ty beanie baby that I carry with me. I put him up on my easel when I paint. He reminds me of the same chacter in The Lion King and his statement "It's in the past. Either learn from it or forget about it".

So life was hard but hopefully I learned from it and forgot the worst of it.

Thanks for your kind words.
Peace

Marcel said...

Hi Lady Di,

I very much liked the story and hope you don’t have nightmares about fires. Man, oh man 3 fires! I have lived through a tornado and a flood, but I think the fire is worse than both of those put together.

I can always tell when someone comes from a humble background. They are always good hearted down to earth folks. They are not like the rich folks who steel from the underprivileged. So it sounds to me as if you earned your big heart and good nature.

Peace.

Lady Di Tn said...

Marcel
Thanks for you kind words and yes you can tell if someone has a humble beginning by their actions. I try to always do as Mother said "always treat others the way you wish to be treated" She only had an eighth grade educations but she was wiser than most college graduates.
Peace