I’m not sure I’ll ever recall all the places I lived as a child. At the request of a teacher my mother made a list of my school attendance up until the eighth grade. I also have some dated photos, report cards, school photos, and documents to verify that we lived in at least nineteen homes in nine towns in three states before moving to Caddo during my first year of high school. And in between moves we were frequent visitors to Oklahoma.
I remember some sort of city apartment where the kitchen was like a closet and I played on the rooftop of the building next door. I remember a row of tiny identical homes plagued by ants. There was a duplex next to a woman who made streusel on her kitchen table and allowed me to babysit her baby son. We lived on a dairy where we often fed calves and mom had a parakeet. We lived in a house in Texas and the woman across the street had a tree filled with cardinals. Another neighbor in a different location had a nine-year-old son who was in high school. A white house behind a bar. Bits and pieces…pictures in my head and memories of encounters that don’t always match the facts and dates from my list.
I sometimes envy people who have lived their whole lives in one or two towns. If they have trouble remembering an event they have family and friends to help them. I do have some family members who can recall family visits and events in Oklahoma more clearly than I can, but none left to remember where we were in California. And I don’t have friends to help me with any memories of my school life before high school. My best friend, who attended school with me in the fifth, seventh, and eighth grades, died of cancer in 1986. So I have to rely on my memory and it often needs a jog.
I suppose what I do or don’t remember isn’t that important. It’s not like I’m attempting to write my biography. But sometimes an object or a smell or someone else’s memory will remind me of something that I can’t quite identify. Maybe if I did write down more of them the memories would eventually connect and all make sense.
At least I can say one thing with absolute certainty…no matter where we lived it always seemed like “home”. My mother took care of me, cooked my meals, made my clothes, and was waiting for me when I got home from school. She sang songs and planted flowers and read books and made me happy. That’s why my memories of home, though somewhat confusing, are still sweet.