For those of you who have been submitting to and following this “Long Ago: Community” writing series/contest…I want to thank you. Your supportive comments and vulnerable stories represent the staples of true community: support, bravery, creativity, generosity, and the willingness to share.
As I enter into the next part of my solo writing retreat to work on my novel, it brings me great joy to know that you all are here, holding These Here Hills in my absence. My Haven Writing Retreat season will soon begin, and I have learned that if we are going to nurture and inspire other people in their self-expression, we have to begin by doing just that for ourselves. If you are interested in joining me for a retreat, email me at Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com. June is fast filling. And August, and September are now booking. Contest winner for Haven scholarship will be announced soon… Submissions are closed… For more info click here.
Please enjoy this nostalgic piece about neighborhood magic by Betsy Nelson!
The House at the End of Belvedere Road, by Betsy Nelson
When I was a girl growing up in the 1970’s living in a Texas town near the Louisiana border, I often visited my friend Molly’s house at the end of Belvedere Road. Most houses on Belvedere were roomy, two-story brick traditional, enveloped by the deep green leaves of sprawling Live Oak trees and angular pine trees. But the very last house on this small-town street was not like the rest.
To begin with, it didn’t look like any of the other houses. The exterior was rough stucco, the color of French Vanilla ice cream. It was topped off with an aged slate roof that looked like small, uniform waves, or like the curly, hard Christmas candy I found in my stocking each year.
The house was U-shaped, built around a central courtyard, shadowed by the iron balconies that lunged overhead, from the second-story bedrooms. In the middle of the pebbled courtyard was a trickling fountain with a quirky bronze statue of an owl perched above it. The image of this mysterious owl at his post, haunted and sometimes comforted me, as I caught glimpses of him on restless nights when I would sleep over.
Upon entering the house through the side door, into the kitchen, I would glance at the simple chalkboard hung on the wall next to the telephone, which was usually ringing or occupied. Scribbled on the board were chalky messages or funny hand-drawn pictures, chronicling the various comings and goings of a lively family of seven children and their Mom and Dad. If I was lucky and it was close to dinner when I visited, the kitchen would be filled with the pungent aroma of garlic and onions sautéing in preparation for some fabulous, exotic Southern dish.
Walking through the house on my way to the backyard, I would feel the warm sunlight streaming in through a wall of tall windows, as I passed the pine dining table, where twelve whitewashed, ladder back chairs stood neatly aligned, until the family would arrive and disrupt all order bringing vibrant life to the abandoned scene.
Sliding open the heavy glass doors that led to the expanse of sweet-smelling, green grass and billowy clover with bees hovering above their fragile stalks, I was met by a familiar chorus of gleeful, Southern voices and raucous laughter. There, a throng of athletic-looking, tow-headed children of various sizes, ages and abilities, encircled a mammoth, jet-black canvas trampoline. Calling, “Hi!” and “Come On!”, the family and a mélange of neighborhood children, jostled to make room for me there beside them.
Spindly, suntanned arms stretched out to rest on the cushioned rim careful not to get fingers caught in the coiled springs. All heads looked up at the glorified kid of the moment, the one taking his turn jumping on the trampoline. Some could bounce high and touch their outstretched toes while suspended for a moment in the air. Some could do flips, bounce up, land cross-legged on the canvas and bounce up again. Others could do little more than jump shyly and roll onto the ground, holding their sides, aching from too much laughter. Oblivious to all this, were Queenie and Greta, two silky, steel-gray and snow white, German Shepherd dogs, stretched out grandly on the cool ground in the sphere of shade beneath the mighty trampoline.
When we finished, a few of us might sneak off and clamber up the bare wooden stairs to the steaming, windowless attic of the house, to dig through the Magic Box, a deep, Chinese-red trunk, filled to overflowing with velvety and satin costumes, smelling of old perfume. Or perhaps, with the late-evening sun beating down, we would climb onto our bikes and take off for the dusty “hills”, a bank of hard-packed dirt, nothing more than the result of a bayou that had been dug alongside the house. Wheels whirring, our bikes glided up one side and coasted down the other until sunset streaked the sky coral pink and mustard yellow. Then, reluctantly, we would all say bye to each other, as we would leave to return to our own homes, and anticipate the next time we would be lucky enough to visit this enchanted place on Belvedere Road.