A Very Surreal Online Day

I’ve been helping my romantic interest find a home for him and his college-aged daughters. Spending weeks, turning into months now, looking at thumbnail pictures. Trying to figure out if he would be interested in going to see this house or that one and then taking the address to Google Earth to get a more realistic viewpoint of the neighborhood. All quite methodical. This has been a fun but very exhausting past time for me- inserting myself where I can even though the home will never be for me.

Today, bored at work- a contract job that I know will not have a happy ending, I decided to look up my childhood home.

Here is where my story starts.

Something clicked in me….look it up….look it up….I felt compelled to do it! I really hadn’t seen it since 2003 I think. More than a decade, I didn’t know what to expect.

I had been raised on 10 acres in the rural and close to the most redneck part of the county and our local interstate. Half mile on both sides of this plot where train tracks. Every evening, if you were paying attention, you could here the train blow their horns in the near distance.

A lot of land and a lot of children too. I was the youngest of 5, 4 older brothers. Our father worked for the country as a soil scientist, surveying and making recommendations for development. His past time, greenhouses and growing plants, would eventually take over all our lives.

The house was far too small for this family of growing boys, dad, mom and me, but we never thought too much about it then. At the time we seemed to have so much more that our immediate neighbors. Sometimes chickens or ducks, a couple of horses came and went.

The small farmhouse house had been added onto throughout the years, each addition a little lower, a little smaller. By the time we got to reside in it, there were two bedrooms (small by today’s standards), a living room, dining room, kitchen on the main level and two rooms upstairs that became the boys dormitory.

There was a front porch with a cold cement floor that always felt good underfoot on a sweltering hot summer day. Did I mention there was no AC? no dishwasher? All those things came along in due time, but my poor brothers upstairs would never have AC and the heat rash it caused was fierce when they were young.

Still, we had a lot more than some of our neighbors.

With the first greenhouse came the first reckoning that there might be something with this plant business. Eventually, dad quit his job with the county and a garden center was born. Within a few years, it was one of the largest around. We moved into a bigger house off in the woods, still within walking distance of the business and that first house.

I can remember summers of taking poinsettia cuttings, a hard job taken on in the heat of the late afternoon. The smell of bleach on your hands, sticky latex on your hands, legs and accidentally face combined with a super-heated greenhouse that felt like a sauna when the mister came on, this was a job for only the sturdy.

Then there are memories of sitting on the front deck of the garden center after closing and feeling the peace and quite. Looking around and marveling at the roses starting to bloom, the hanging baskets overhead, how beautiful it looked.

Equally, in the greenhouses, the warm, peaty smell and the acres of geraniums or just the general greenness of everything under heavy clear plastic. I can still feel the humidity fogging up my glasses. I can barely remember all the colors of red geraniums we grew. At the time, I was typical, unappreciative at how clean and generally orderly we kept everything.

True, I didn’t wear Izod Lacoste like many of my school mates and I certainly could not afford to go out and make trouble. Oh, we did try in our own ways to be rebels and get into trouble. There never was a fancy family vacation, it was a lot just to go to the beach for a week. But I didn’t know any different. There’s something to being poor in the middle of the country, made easier before the days of internet influences.

So I typed in the address to Google Earth….watched it go from the global view to a hovering over top position. Looked kind of like the place, but not really. I dropped the figure next to a building and waited for clarity.

Turning left and right, it didn’t look right. I recheck the address. Yes, that was it….then I turned again the to the house. That was it. They had enclosed the front porch. And from a small WWII farm house it turned into a sad little dwelling.

The grass and yard had not been kept up. Nothing looked like the floral memory stuck in my head. The main building where we had check-out registers was overgrown with weeds, barely able to see that deck that I had sat on so many times. Yes, even the roof had a hole in it. I spun around a few more times to take it all in.

The paved parking lot was also dilapidated, the weeds and young saplings struggling up through the cracks. Trucks, litter, junk, an old tire, a camper scattered here and there. It was obvious somebody was doing something with it. Just what? My heart sank remembering the perennial bed I spent so many hours weeding now festooned with the remnants of someones fast food lunch.

I didn’t expect it to be another greenhouse, or even a busines itself. I wasn’t expecting the mess, the regression back to something less than wilderness, this was a sty. This is where people who don’t care about the land live, I felt angry, like almost crying.

I still feel angry. Maybe in another 12 years I’ll look at it again hoping that nature and completely taken over and thrown the pigs out. Maybe then it will become something else, something really nice…maybe


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