Saturday, May 23, 2009

Places I Have Lived

In almost all of the stories I've written, the protaganist is either moving to a new home or attempting to find a new home to move to. I guess that's because I've lived in 42 different places in my life, and each one is a story.

I think they're in order, but I can't promise.

1. The Uncle Lewis Place in Mt. Nebo, WV. I don't know why it was called that or if there was really an Uncle Lewis. It was an old, white, haunted house where we lived till I turned one. When I say it was haunted, I mean both that it was listed in a book of haunted houses and that when you used a camera in that house, sometimes there were snakes in the photos that weren't there in real life.

2. Bent Tree Farm, somewhere, I'm not sure where, in West Virginia. We raised goats and chickens and a cow or two. When I say "we," I mean Mom, who also took care of us three girls. Dad, too, of course, but I think he also worked in the mines at this time. I'm not sure; it's a little fuzzy. I know the chimney burned once. I know there was a swimming hole. We left when I was three because somebody vandalized the place so bad we couldn't live there anymore, and a neighbor's dog killed the goats. Years later, the whole house burned. I think it was actually burned on purpose as a practice exercise for the fire department. There was a neighbor called Jug who sat on his front porch with a jug. Years later my sister drove me back to find the place, and there Jug still sat, like not a day had gone by. Waved just like he knew us.

3. The brick house in Cottle, WV. This was a little brick house and I remember that the neighbors had a cook-out and I lost my jelly shoes. We left when I was ... still 3? Four, maybe? This house also burned later.

4. Williams Road, Craigsville (I think), WV -- a green house where we took care of a stray dog for a while. I had nightmares a lot. We had a yardsale. It was the first place I noticed that mist made me nostalgic. My sister accidentally cut herself on a neighbor's knife. We made up imaginary friends named Dusty, Waggy, and Marbly. I was four. I carried a lunch box and desperately wanted to go to school.

5. Coke Road, Craigsville, WV. This was actually called Bottle Plant Road, but we called it Coke Road. I had my first best friend, named Amber, but I didn't really like her. Her grandmother made good chocolate chip cookies. We made cornhusk dolls. I think I was still four. This one also burned later.

6. Pine Trailer Park, Summersville, WV. There was red carpet. I started Kindergarten at the Christian Academy. My mother worked there and after my half-day classes, I bounced around the halls on a bouncy horse. My horse-loving root, I guess. I wet my pants a lot. I wanted Snuggle Bear from the dryer sheet commercials as a pet.

Edited to Add: 7. Lee Street. White house with black shutters. We had a puppy named Sunday, but we only got to keep him from one Sunday till the next before we had to give him back. We walked out at dusk to get ice creams from the U-Save gas station. We had a cat named August who got hit by a car right in front of us and killed. This house always seemed creepy to me, though not for any real reason.

8. The Carpenter House in Mt. Nebo, thus named because we rented it from people named the Carpenters, but I also thought it was because the house was wooden. We three girls shared a room at the top of the stairs, and I liked to stand on the top step and watch storms. My favorite song was "Wake Up, Little Susie." My sisters and I played Civil War and Wild Horses and Gold Rush. I stepped on a hamster in the sandbox and it crunched. We liked MacGyver. I rode an imaginary horse everywhere I went. We had a brown Chevy Suburban named Teddy Bear. I was six.

9. Uncle Emmett's place in Mt. Nebo, WV. I don't remember an actual Uncle Emmett, though. My sister grew crystals for a science project. My other sister won a red ribbon in a social studies fair. There were two dogs, not ours, but they loved us enough to chase the schoolbus We walked down to the gospel sing to use the payphone. There were bunkbeds. I was seven. I started the first of three elementary schools I would attend in my second-grade year.

E.T.A. -- 10. Summersville Place, a retirement home, with my grandmother. We weren't allowed, but we did anyway. I remember watching Westerns and eating strawberry candy. There was a lady upstairs we thought was a witch. I don't actually remember sleeping there, but Mom says we stayed in Grandma's bed and she took the couch.

11. At a Christian bookstore in Muddletly, WV, for forty days and forty nights. The owners let us use their back room and I think my mom helped in the store. We weren't allowed to read. There were prayer meetings and the lady we lived with kept a bowl of glass-like green candy, which I loved. There were bees in boxes, and a stream out back. I remember we had a snow day once. I wanted a horse. We got a little gray car that my parents told me dropped from Heaven, and I never did know where it came from. I switched to the second of three elementary schools in second grade. My second-grade class shared a room with the third-grade class and it was too cold to use the playground, the whole time I lived there. We decorated shoeboxes for Valentine's Day.

12. With Yvonne in Canvas, WV. There were plastic runners on the carpets, and one whole white room of furniture that nobody, including Yvonne, was allowed to use. A mirror jumped off the wall during a prayer meeting and shattered on the living room floor. Yvonne had shoulder pads and liked Cool Whip on peanut butter sandwiches. Maybe this was where we weren't allowed to read. Or maybe it was both. There was a room in the back she didn't use, and that was our hideaway for Mom to read to us. Or maybe that was at the bookstore, too. Yvonne finally sat our stuff out on the sidewalk. Luckily, my parents had gone out and found us a place that very day. I'm not sure what we did about school, but I never did go to one in Canvas.

13. Maria Estates, in Glade Creek, WV, for two delicious years, my eighth through my tenth. We stopped going to church. We were off school during Indian Summer because of the teacher strike of 1990. We had a cat named Panther J. Andrew Cade who could knock on the door. My mom read us everything. The neighbor had a horse, but she didn't like us at first. Then she taught me to ride in the back meadow, and I don't remember being scared. We were convinced the meadow was haunted. She was my first real best friend. I liked listening to "Back in the High Life" by Steve Winwood and "Dirty Laundry" by Don Henley.

14. In the car, moving to and from Illinois. I don't remember much, only that there was a rest area with phones that you could pick up and they would automatically tell you the weather. I thought it was magic.

15. Camp. This is to say, my grandmother's camp in Mt. Nebo, WV. I started fifth grade at the same school I'd attended for a couple of months in second grade. I made a friend who liked horses, and she broke her arm on the playground. My grandmother didn't have indoor plumbing and we washed in basins outside with water from the well. I ate peanut butter toast in the dark before school.

16. Dotson Trailer Park, Glade Creek, WV. There was a horse named Diamond who lived down the road. He was my best friend. I was eleven. There was a blizzard that winter and we made roads in the snow. There was an orange cat named Misfit. The neighbor boys and I built a fort down in the valley. I remember spending a lot of time walking in circles and brooding. My bedroom was in a corner of the living room.

17. E.T.A. -- Camp again, apparently.

18. Battle Run Campground in Mt. Nebo, WV. We couldn't afford rent, so we moved into the campground. We had to switch campsites every two weeks, as per their rules, so actually there were lots of little moves in between. We had a brown Nissan truck, and sometimes we rode in the back and held our tents, still pitched, against the wind while Dad drove us to a new campsite. It was easier than taking them apart and putting them back together. We hid out in the shower houses during the biggest storms. Of all the summers to live on Summersville Lake, we picked a drought year, the year they drained the lake early. There was a lot of mud and dry, cracked earth where there ought to have been water. I started seventh grade from the campground and yelled at the campers next door, who played a song about a muddy river over and over until one in the morning on a school night. I had a different best friend every week because the old ones would stop camping and go home. I did my homework in the laundry room. My roller skates went through the side of my tent. I had a boyfriend who was gay, like me. He took me to horse shows. I was twelve.

19. An old post office, Canvas, WV. My sister and I had a mail slot between our rooms. The walls didn't quite reach the ceilings. There was a horse a mile away named Star. Just past her lived my best friend, Kari. There was a swing in the back yard. I danced by the creek to classical music. I kept a journal of my daily activities with my imaginary horse. I wrote my first novel, about a magical land of horses called Aquilla. I was twelve.

20. A red cargo van, first moving to, and then back from, Elizabeth City, North Carolina. It just didn't feel right once we got there.

21. Harold Court, Summersville, WV. Hidden Springs Farm was a mile away and I got a job there cleaning stalls in exchange for riding lessons. Kari rode there, too. I met my best friend Stacie. My sister moved away and came back several months later with a baby. It was sweltering hot and it was my other sister's turn to live in the living room. I had a cat named Mikey who stole tomatoes off the counter. We lived there for three years and I started high school.

22. A haunted green house in Enon, WV. My father and my uncle built me a barn and I brought my first horse home from Hidden Springs Farm. Stuff and I rode for hours up and down country roads. He was scared of calves. Best friend was still Stacie and she learned to drive and visited a lot. I lived in the attic. Something knocked on the walls from the other side. My sister and I watched the X-Files religiously and I learned to bake cakes with green X's made of sprinkles to celebrate the release of the X-Files movie. My other sister visited on weekends with the baby. Kari and our other horsey friends visited and we bet dirty socks and broken hair bows on the Kentucky Derby every year. I lay on Stuff's back for hours and hours, reading horse books. We had a cat named Carter who slept on Stuff's back. He was killed by a car when he was one. We got a cat named Milagro next. I did my homework on the barn roof. I was seventeen.

23. Kintacoy. This was a half-finished apartment in a barn in the wilds of Mt. Nebo, WV. I lived upstairs. My parents lived downstairs in the kitchen, and Stuff lived up the hill in a rough, half-finished little shed. My parents spent a lot of time at the neighbor's haunted house. I was too scared, so I stayed alone at Kintacoy. We had our first computer with Internet and I built a website about my horse. I read a lot of X-Files fanfiction and watched Sports Night religiously by holding onto the TV antenna to get reception. There was no indoor plumbing. Or outdoor plumbing, either, once the porta-john got repossessed. I remember freezing my private parts peeing on the ground in January. It was one of the coldest winters I remember and I was very, very moody. I was still seventeen.

24. Hester Hall, Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky. I spent one semester majoring in journalism. I had a best friend named Annie. I minored in equine science and came home after one semester to be with my own horse. Found out western Kentucky was too flat for this mountain girl.

23, revisited. Kintacoy again. Still moody. Stayed part time with my sister in her apartment in town. She drove me to Glenville College's Nicholas County campus, back when there was one. We fought tooth and nail to keep Sports Night on the air, of course a losing battle. We drank Dr. Pepper and I attended her entire distance learning lab with her without an instructor ever knowing. We ate lemon poppyseed muffins and argued politics for fun.

25. Buskirk Hall, Marshall University, Huntington, WV. My sister and I lived and breathed Election 2000. After a sleepless night watching the returns, which proved to be mostly pointless, I crossed campus to Jenkins and changed my major to education. We drove back and forth across West Virginia nearly every weekend.

26. First Avenue, Huntington, WV, with my sister and Stacie. I came out as a lesbian. I rode the bus out to Barboursville to work with an autistic teen and to ride my horse.

27. Fourth Avenue, a little efficiency apartment, my first solo place, Huntington, WV. I had a balcony three stories above the street. I lived above the deli and the Chinese restaurant, and just across the street from the bus station. I started dating. Eventually I started dating a woman named Tracy, who later came out as a transgendered man named Jake. I got a cat named Sage, and then found a cat named Henry (see cat-hat in userpic) in Wal-Mart.

28. Tenth Avenue, a haunted, scary house, with the campus gay and lesbian group. We rented the downstairs and our friends rented the upstairs. Something kept locking and unlocking doors and scratching mirrors. The gas got cut off and I learned to take cold showers. We got our first truck, an '88 Ford Ranger.

29. A trailer with no plumbing. Huntington, WV. The wheel fell off the truck and we started walking the mile and a half to catch the bus. I was supposed to start student teaching, but the wiring failed and we had to move into ...

30. Jake's sister's dorm room for three consecutive days at a time, the maximum allowed. Then my friend Steve's apartment for a night. Then back to Jake's sister's room. All the while student teaching.

31. Linden Circle. Huntington, WV. A pretty apartment, but with scary neighbors and a scary neighborhood. Jake and I broke up. He moved out. I graduated college and bought a gold Chevy.

32. With an opera singer, Brevard, NC. First by myself. Then Jake moved to NC to be with me and we got back together. My first year of teaching special education. Stuff, my beloved first horse of nine years, got sick suddenly, and I drove all night to be at his side when he passed away. My cat Sage disappeared, but came back three weeks later. We were asked to leave.

33. At the boarding house, Brevard, NC. It was gorgeous. It was perfect. We lived there till school was out, then left for Virginia, where I'd accepted a job. I was given a sick horse who turned out not to be too sick. That was Magnum. We rode in a show in the rain and got a blue ribbon.

34. With my sister in Charlottesville, VA, for a few days, on the floor of the office.

35. A sublet in a scary neighborhood in Charlottesville, VA. I started teaching at a private school. We had a dog named Hunter who hated apartments.

36. A farmhouse you got to by driving through cow fields in Afton, VA. We brought Magnum home and got him a pet goat, a Nigerian Dwarf. Learned that goat fencing must be water tight. We drove our car without insurance. My sister moved away to Philly and it was just me and Jake with the animals. Something knocked on the door in the middle of the night, most nights, although we were the only house for miles. We got evicted with five days to find a new place, and we had to part with Pete the goat.

37. A horrible hodgepodge week where we lived in our car, drove back and forth from my parents' apartment in West Virginia, and stayed in cheap motel rooms. Our car broke down and was towed away and that left us stranded in a cheap motel with a hole in the wall. I pulled Henry-cat out of the wall by his tail. He was traumatized. We maybe all were.

38. My parents helped get us into a cottage on a horse farm in Staunton, VA. We kept Magnum there and worked in the stable while I also commuted 45 minutes to the private school. The horse farm owner possessed a strong personality and the farm was never peaceful. We got rid of Hunter because she was sick and we couldn't afford her care. We knew we were about to be homeless. My Henry-cat couldn't take the stress and ran away in January. I found him dead on the road in March. He was four. We were finally asked to leave. We left the dead Chevy sitting there next to Henry's grave.

39. With a friend named Julie, for about a week. She was awesome. So was her dog. Sage was lonely. So was Jake. So was I. We didn't talk much. We drove a tan minivan with 300,000 miles on it.

40. Back to the boarding house in Brevard, NC. I count it separately because it was so different this time. The cast of characters had changed. I taught preschool, then started my third year of teaching. I got my dog, Lola. Jake got his puppy, Buddy. Lights flickered willy-nilly and there were disembodied footsteps that walked through the house. I wrote LIVVIE OWEN LIVED HERE. We were asked to leave. Jake came out as trans and changed his name. We ditched the van and bought a Bonneville from my coworker. Still haven't finished paying.

41. A rental in Asheville, NC, with a friend named Erika. Obama was inaugerated. Erika moved back to Florida. She was the perfect roommate and I miss her like crazy. This was the first rental in a long time that I don't regret.

And, finally,

42. A basement apartment that is half apartment, half dank, creepy, unfinished basement. No kitchen cabinets. A jazz band practices down here once a week. Occasionally, somebody taps you on the shoulder, even if you are alone in a room. This is where I live. I'm twenty-eight.

In just a few weeks, Jake and I are moving back to West Virginia. We're not sure where to, exactly, so we might be doing the campground thing again. I kind of hope so. Of all the places I just listed, it was one of the most fun.

So now you know why I write what I write. I just listed 42 novel ideas, minimum.


bettielee said...

Wow. Like. Wow. I clicked on your link from the "have you updated your blog?"I was dismayed at first, but I loved every word of this! You kept me intrigued and entertained! Excellent post! And as a girl, I too, kept track of the places I lived by the horses near me. I hope if you go back to WV you find a way out of the poverty, though. It's a bitch to live with, but it does build "character". Ha! Good luck!

Christina Farley said...

Saw your post on Verlas and had to check it out. Wow! You sure have lived in a lot of places. Crazy.

Meg Wiviott said...

No wonder you write! No one could live through all that without an imagination.

Sarah Dooley said...

Some clarification from my mother:

<< Uncle Lewis O'dell was Camp Gran's Mom's brother. He was married to "Aunt Lizzie" and she was a cleptomaniac. Legend has it that you couldn't keep anything in that house, that Aunt Lizzie even stole things from the other side. The door opened by itself at 3 in the morning on some mornings -- even though you locked it.

Bent Tree Farm was up in Crupperneck.

We lived on Coke road before we lived on Williams road. Moved from Williams road to Pine Trailer Park. >>

Abby said...

42 novel ideas! Wow! Interesting post. I also found your blog via AbsoluteWrite. Nice!

Ricky Bush said...

Hey Dooley--

I live on a Bent Tree Lane as I type. What a coincidence, huh? It ain't in Crupperneck, though. Anyway--