I don’t know why, but I found myself recently looking at some Google Maps views of an old house.
How, I wondered, could it be that old? It was the house that was “my” house, my home, from the moment Mom and Dad brought me home from Amarillo’s original Northwest Texas Hospital. It remained my house for all of my school years.
I knew every nick in those wooden floors (Mom would pour wax on the floor and send us off with old towels; we’d spin around on hands and knees as human buffing machines) and every inch of its old paneling. I remember pulling kitchen chairs up to the sink where my two years younger brother and I would squabble over who washed and who dried the dishes. I remember the family table and, above it on the wall, the print of Warner Sallman’s famous “Head of Christ” painting.
I even remember my tricycle, believe it or not. Jim had a smaller one, red and white. Mine was orange and white and a little larger. I remember getting my chins bruised when I’d head down the little hill at the end of the driveway and try, too soon, to get my feet back on the pedals. Oh, and I remember our skateboards. Two by fours with metal skates nailed to the boards. A sidewalk pebble could fling you into next week.
I remember the tree houses Jim and I built in the back yard and the way we’d string rope from one old elm tree to another to build tents and play with the cool stuff we bought at the old Army Surplus store on Georgia Street. Grenades were not sold there, so we just used dirt clods from the alley when battles called for them.
A good family friend, Lee Meadows, worked at the hospital, and he donated to us the bottom frame of an old hospital meal cart. It came with four five- or six-inch wheels, two stationary and two free-wheeling. We rigged a top for it out of scrap lumber, and we’d take turns, one sprawled out on the top and one of us pushing as fast as he could down the driveway and then spinning the thing to see how centrifugal force would affect the rider. It was cheaper than Disneyland. (And we were as likely to go to the moon as to Disneyland.)
I’ll never forget some wonderful snowy days when we could open our bedroom windows, pull off the screens, and launch ourselves out of the house and down snow slides. My lifelong love affair with snow started in Amarillo. (Mom and Dad had already had three kids. After #3, they waited fifteen years to get it right with me. Then quality control botched it with Jim. By the time we came along, they were tired, and we got away with a lot.)
I remember fond hours spent in the garage and creating all sorts of experiments and a few minor explosives on the old workbench (it was scorched by a lab fire or two). We made use of a chemistry set augmented by chemicals we could buy at Jack Bell’s Pharmacy over on Line Avenue.
I recall our “territory” expanding from the house and its yard to the neighborhood, enlarging as we grew. We were particularly fond of what we called “alley-ratting,” which meant checking out the neighbors’ trash. The neighbor directly across the alley, Mr. Sarpolis (Google “Doc” Sarpolis, and you’ll find he was rather amazing, though we didn’t know it), smoked cigars that came in glass tubes, and those became test tubes for our endeavors. We found a lot of great stuff. (These days, you’d probably prick your finger on a needle and catch a dread disease.)
And I could write a book about our dear next door friends, Harold & Phyllis Harris. I think I loved their teenage daughter, Pam, even before I fell in love with Doris Day.
Jim and I often played at West Hills Park, just another street down from the house. Later, we’d become businessmen with two newspaper routes (in the days when you had to put the paper on the porch and not just somewhere in the vicinity of the property). We threw papers for years, starting out on foot, graduating to bicycles and, finally, a VW beetle.
Eventually, paper route customers became lawn care customers. And a few years later, we found employment working after school on the greens at the nearby Amarillo Country Club.
But the little house on Goliad Street was the center of it all. Home base.
Okay, I begin to see now how the house could be called old. But, honestly, it really looks today very much like it did in my growing up years, though improved. The dear friends my folks sold it to took great care of it and raised their own family there.
The more I think about that place, the more stories come to mind. How time passes!
I don’t know where you call home or where your own “home place” is; I hope it holds mostly good memories. But I do know this: home, and I mean our true Home filled with utter joy, is where, in the deepest parts of our souls, we all long to be. It’s the place we’re really searching for, consciously or not, all of our lives. And my faith is in the One who promises to lead us all the way Home.
I’ll bet my old home has had quite a few new floor coverings since I was there. I wonder, but I’ll bet that, down on the wooden floor underneath the new stuff, right in front of the wall where the old upright piano stood, is a greasy place marking the spot where I once dropped a plate full of my mom’s amazing enchiladas.
You’re invited to visit my website, and I hope you’ll take a look there at my new “Focus on Faith” Podcast. At the website, just click on “Podcast.” Blessings!
Copyright 2023 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.