It was nothing special, or so it seemed to me. Just another brick house at the bottom of a hill. Later I learned that my parents built it themselves. They designed everything, from the nearly acre lot to the hide-away doors creating the perfect hide and seek spots. I remember wanting to move to a neighborhood down the street. It’s where my friends lived. I didn’t know then that those houses didn’t have the nice upgrades mine did. They had smaller lots, and they didn’t hold their value as well. I didn’t appreciate things like that. In fact, I didn’t appreciate much. But now I remember all the things that made it home.
When it rained hard, which it did a lot in Florida, the street gutters would flood with water and catfish would swim up from the nearby pond. When it rained even more we’d catch the catfish in big garbage cans – that’s the closest I ever came to fishing.
I remember a lot about the rain. We had a back deck that was screened in and faced south west. That’s where all the storms came from. Behind us was a field where they once kept calves. We’d come home from school and take carrots and celery to feed the calves (because that’s what they eat, right?). In the evening as the storms rolled in we’d sit on the back porch lit by a hurricane lantern sipping water with lemon and watch the clouds and lightning get closer and closer. We’d count the seconds between the lightning and the thunder to judge how close it was. When the downpour finally came, complete with gale-force winds, we’d meander inside and wonder if tonight would be another night to lose power. We’d sit and listen because that’s all you can do when the rain is pouring down in buckets and you have non-insulated sky-lights that sound like a never-ending drum circle. We couldn’t hear our own thoughts, much less any sort of conversation. It was an annoyance then, but in fact the beat of the rain would lull us all to sleep and in the morning we’d wake to find the birds singing and the lizards calling. Sometimes if it was quiet enough we’d see families of sandhill cranes roaming the yard. Once there was an otter. And often times we were home to hawks.
The best rain was summer shower rain. When there’s not a single cloud in the blue sky and you can’t make sense out of where the rain is coming from. But it’s soaking. And it’s a nice break from the hot humid air. And it goes away as quickly as it came, leaving behind its sweet smell and the refreshing predictability of knowing you’ll need to mow again soon.
Nothing special, right? It was the place I called home for 15 years. When we moved there I was 4. My earliest memory is wanting to peel off my skin because it was just that hot. We played in the sprinkler in the back yard. And years later we lost our ‘soccer field’ to a pool. It wasn’t much of a loss though. The pool became my primary dwelling place. Forget showers or baths. I’d get up in the morning, swim a few laps. Go to school. Come home. Jump in the pool. Do homework. Swim some more. Eat dinner. Wait the obligatory 30 minutes. Swim some more. My favorite time to swim was during night-time showers. There’s something special about a pool lit by the glow of an underwater light, with a gentle, warm rain making ever soft ripples.
I’ll probably never live in Florida again. What would be the point, without my sky lights, screened-in porch, and sandhill-crane sanctuary of a yard? I’ve become a bit transient. Moving every few years. Always looking toward changes that the future may bring. But perhaps the very reason I can long for those changes is because of the stability of my childhood home.