Friday, April 09, 2010

You Can't Go Home Again

Even though I am a Botetourt girl through and through, and despite the fact that I can count back many generations to ancestors who settled here when Native Americans roamed the land and cougars scared the deer, I have not lived every single year of my life here.

The first seven years of my life were spent in Salem, mostly in the house you see above. My mother and father moved the family to Botetourt in 1971, to land just minutes from my maternal grandfather's homeplace.

My memories of the little house in Salem are fragmented. Sometimes they are funny, frequently scary, and often things I'd rather forget.

That tree on the right, for instance, holds a memory of terror for a four-year old. I was playing house around the tree. I vividly recall my doll (called my Grandma Doll because she had white hair) and a little chair that I sat her in. The tree too played a role in my little imaginary game. For some reason I determined it had been a very bad tree indeed and therefore must be whipped. As I stepped around to give the tree its due with a little limb from itself, I glanced down.

A golden snake had curled itself around the tree trunk. I panicked and raced inside. My mother was getting ready to go to work. I was so terrified I could not speak. Surely the word "blathered" was invented for such moments.

I remember my mother's anger and fear. Anger because I couldn't get out what had frightened me and fear because I was so terrified. Finally, I blurted out, "Snake!" between my tears and fits of crying. She went outside to look and then called my father. He was a policeman at the time. He came home and dispensed of the snake, which apparently was in such a state of bliss that it had made no move in all the time that took.

Earlier this week I cruised with a friend in search of my old house. It had been over 20 years since I'd last gone too look for it and I wasn't sure I would remember it. I drove by it once and wasn't 100 percent sure it was the right place, but on the second drive-by I viewed the tree from an angle that made it familiar. The snake memory came roaring back to me as if it were yesterday.

Other memories from this house involve red carpeting, hands being slammed in doors (not on purpose), learning there was no tooth fairy or Santa Claus (I figured that out at the tender age of five, alas), having my eyes burn from sand in them from my sandbox, eating a wild onion in the backyard (and then not eating onions again until I was past the age of 30), my brother eating a box of aspirins, my dolly getting burned up on the stove, box-kite flying, blood, a ghost sitting on my bed, my mother passing out in the floor because she was ill, and an assortment of other wild visions that race through my head when I consider my childhood.

But it is Botetourt that has my heart and my soul, though some might consider me a transplant in spite of  my family roots here, long, deep and strong as they may be. Still, I suppose I owe some allegiance to that tiny little girl who once tried to spank a certain tree.


  1. Oh the memories a house made of lumber and a tree made of wood hold. Tons of memories about my childhood home as well and like you, some are good and others should be forgotten.

    It really is a lovely house, Anita!


  2. It's scary what we remember, isn't it? I'm glad you didn't get bit by that tree. If you ever decide to write fantasy, that would be a great scene to include. The tree getting even!

  3. Wow, your story of the snake wrapped around the tree trunk is amazing. No wonder you remember that time so vividly. I agree with Amy that that scene should go into a short story or novel some day.

  4. When we look back so far it can all feel like a dream that we believe because we have proof, but a dream just the same. I wish I could visit my childhood home. It was taken by eminent domain and burned to the ground. It felt like losing a loved one.

  5. Oh I enjoyed this story Anita! Please tell more about the ghost sitting on your bed!


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