My junior year in high school, I bought my first car – a maroon 1985 Mazda 626 LX hatchback with a digital speedometer and the world’s ugliest tape deck. Desperate to get a CD player, I saved up enough money picking and cleaning golf balls at Cottonwood Lakes Driving Range to purchase an Aiwa CSD X217 stereo from Best Buy. They had to install it at the store, so one day, I convinced my mom to go hang out with me while Best Buy technicians made my dreams come true. About an hour into the process, the techs determined they needed to fully remove the front seats in order to get to the proper wiring, so we waited and waited, perusing Target and other Lancaster Mall venues. Meanwhile, Schirle Elementary School students were released for the day and my nine-year-old brother hopped on the bus to head home. The bus dropped Shane off at our driveway and he popped up the three steps to our front porch, like any other day.
The door was locked.
I’m sure he thought that was strange.
On his tiptoes, he peered through the window on the door, and through the lacy curtains, all he could see was smoke.
Smoke filling the house – and the TV flashing through the haze.
He thought I was trapped inside.
Pounding on the door, Shane was in a terror.
Drivers flying down River Road on that day probably didn’t even notice the little boy with a backpack, waving at them to slow down and save his sister inside his smoke-filled house.
By God’s grace, within minutes of Shane’s arrival, my dad pulled up – home from work. Jingling his mound of keys, my dad opened the house – smoke billowing out and fire alarms screaming.
My dad ran in to find smoke seeping out of the oven.
Not long after, my mom and I pulled up. I was still upset that my car lay in pieces in the Best Buy garage, but my mom gasped in sudden realization that she had left a chicken cooking for waaay too long.
It became a running joke – after the nine-year-old’s tears were dried and our entire wardrobes quite literally taken to the cleaners. Instead of the girl with the cool new stereo, I was the girl whose every possession reeked of burnt chicken.
Twenty-eight years of stories.
I moved into 3251 River Road South at the age of 4 months – nearly the same age as Piper is now. Four years of home school within its walls taught me how to read, write and get done with school quick so we could go outside and play.
The couple of acres of tangly forest which wrapped around our house served as our playground. Rarely did we swing hammers when constructing our forts, opting for vines and branches and old tires recovered along the busy road. We’d stockpile treasures of broken pottery, golf balls, license plates and glass bottles, keeping them safe for who knows what. Toting BB guns and plastic buckets, Steven and Blake were always hunting for birds and Lindsay and I were always, always hunting for golf balls. It was like a year-long Easter egg hunt – except we got money instead of candy.
I wonder whose idea it was – to sell the golf balls.
Regardless of where the idea came from, for as long as I can remember, we would find the golf balls, take them home, wash them, sort them into egg cartons according to brand and color, and then peddle our wares to the golfers on the 6th and 8th greens of Cottonwood Lakes Golf Course.
There were rules, of course.
Rule #1: Hide behind a tree when the golfers are teeing off.
Rule #2: Hide until the golfers are done putting.
Rule #3: Be polite. Our signature phrase: “Would you like to buy some golf balls?”
Rule #4: Stick to the price: 25 cents a ball.
Rule #5: Don’t walk on the greens. My dad was a greenskeeper at Illahe Hills Country Club for a good chunk of our childhood and would not have us messing up Cottonwood’s greens. I remember once we actually paid to golf at Cottonwood with my dad and I felt so special that I got to WALK on the forbidden greens.
As we got braver and people started expecting our appearances, we offered other services, like acting as spotters for wayward tee shots that came crashing down around our hiding places. One time, the owner of the golf course came and told us to stop selling golf balls because he had his own business of selling used balls – for a dollar each. Eventually, another guy bought the place and so we kept on selling.
Back to the house.
Steven taught me how to ride his black BMX bike on the front lawn.
We used to hole up downstairs clawing through huge buckets of Legos for that ONE piece we needed to finish yet another project.
One time my dad slammed the bathroom window on his hand, which was only saved by his wedding ring.
Many times, my mom attempted to be a taxidermist with moles she clubbed to death in the front yard and two beavers she found as road kill.
Many toys, since burned in my mom’s awful backyard bonfires – the Ewok house, the jumping mattress.
Shooting the heads off my Barbie dolls with my new BB gun.
Steven always beating me at tennis baseball in the back yard – over the garage = home run!
Stepping on a bees nest while searching for a sewer ball. This was not fun.
Wrestling with dad.
Oatmeal and raisins every morning.
Adventures in Odyssey.
Whittling with my new Swiss Army Knife. Can you tell I was a tomboy?
Always, always stepping in chicken poop and always, always hating chickens – except for Alberta and Bachelor Buttons.
It’s been a rough 2 months…but I only hid a few tears behind my lens as I took pictures of my childhood home being demolished today. When we walked up to the construction zone, the man driving the excavator stopped his work.
But he had to keep going. And I had to watch. It’s not every day you get to see something so stalwart crumble – a scrap pile of your life.
Those trees, those arches, those walls, those stairs, those floors.
It is such a comfort to know that the things of this world may fade, but my eternal security lies in the hands of a God so much greater than this world.
There is a time for everything … a time to plant and a time to uproot … a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh.
Maybe now it’s time to laugh.