I grew up in a village outside of a small town on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Howdy ma’am (or sir, or whatever). Until yesterday, my childhood home was underwater.
My sister finally made it down there today and the water at its highest point was even with the windowsills. That’s a lot of water, especially for a tiny house that was build 40+ years ago with the intention of it only being a temporary residence for my great grandmother while the Big House was built. It was a true mother-in-law’s house, built by hand by my grandfather and his sons. One of which was my father, God rest his soul.
The Big House never got built, my great-grandmother died in her sleep in the back bedroom, my nuclear family moved in, my parents were married a second time (after divorcing each other) in the living room, and I was born in the front bedroom. Lot of living went on there.
To say this house was small is an understatement. It was the size of an apartment. Is the size of an apartment–it’s still standing but I’m starting to think of it in the past tense. Like when family members move into hospice and your vocabulary slowly shifts to the inevitable.
I loved my little house in the woods. It was a magical place to grow up: among trees and ponds, cattle and wild animals. There was a freedom and security in my childhood that I haven’t felt since. Despite an at-times harsh upbringing, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It opened my eyes to so many beautiful things.
After mom died two years ago, the little house was empty. My sister, who lived next door, took care of it. Everything was just like Mom left it, down to the tiny plastic boxes with ponytail holders and bobby pins on the bathroom shelves my father built.
Their ashes are side by side on the living room shelves (also built by my father, before his own death 9 years ago–heart attack while on the tractor, a rural working man’s death). During the storm I thought about their plastic urns keeping sentinel over the rising waters. The urns–which look like the plastic buckets you fetch ice in at a cheap motel–themselves are intended to be temporary, like the house, but they are probably what my parents will stay in for the next 40 years, until a natural disaster finally takes them away, too.
I can’t directly write about my feelings on this subject quite yet. I can only describe and catalogue, nip at the edges of what these five acres in the Texas countryside, nestled between two increasingly dangerous rivers, actually mean to me. Maybe in the future, but not tonight.