February 27, 2009

Childhood Homes

(A tip of the hat to Torn, who tagged all of his readers with this great idea. Use the "street level" image of your childhood home from Google maps and write about a memory. Tag, you're it.)

While we moved around for a bit, this is the house I consider my childhood home, in Sarasota.


I lived here from age six to thirteen. My dad designed it, a tiny 3B/2b house with an open carport. Subsequent owners have apparently enclosed the carport, added another driveway and garage, and put up a storage shed on the right. They added trees in the front yard and a picket fence. Crowded property now. The real crime was committed by the owner who painted the exterior. The wood siding was wormy cypress, which aged to a beautiful silver sheen and was impervious to rot and insects. Someone decided to fill in the holes and paint it all. Gah. No maintenance to high maintenance. Such ignorance.

We three sisters slept in the front right bedroom. There was barely room for a bunk, a twin, and three dressers. The idea of entertaining friends in my bedroom was foreign to me; who could fit? There was a gardenia bush under the window (where the shed now sits) that was filled with blooms. That heavy scent takes me back to childhood every time.

The back yard had a huge single pine tree which I tried to use for a treehouse. Every nail I put in the tree produced a sticky flow of sap, making the ladder steps unusable. Do you know how hard it is to remove sap from your hands? It takes turpentine. Pew. I took my carpentry skills to the woods at the end of the street (now a housing addition), where I established two more “treehouses” (read: planks nailed to the branches). I loved those things. They were great for sitting and thinking.

When my mom remarried, we moved to this house near the bay.

It resides in the oldest neighborhood in Sarasota, at the midway point between the two keys. Less than half of the original houses remain, most of them falling to McMansions. This shot is relatively recent, and apparently Mom was home. (That’s her car in the porte cochere.) The city has put a moratorium on watering, and those who obey have faded yards. (Of course, many of the bigger homes have brilliant green lawns.)

This tiny half lot boasts five live oaks, a key lime, a ponderosa lemon, a macadamia tree which feeds only squirrels, two palms and various roses, ferns, bromeliads, and azaleas. Probably half of the original foliage has been removed. When I was in high school, I went out back to swing in the hammock strung between two oaks. It was a sunny warm day, and it was idyllic to look up in the trees to see squirrels gamboling in the large branches of the oaks. Except—wait a minute—these squirrels didn’t have fur on their tails. Oh, man, they were wharf rats. Ewww. Those miserable things live in every palm tree. I was up and inside.

I remember having to mow this lawn twice a week, back when it rained every summer day at 4:30. If you let it go five days the mower wouldn’t go through the Bahia grass. Half the front yard has been taken over by the walled swimming pool.


The 3B/2½b house was built in the 1940s and is floored throughout in terrazzo. We’ve carpeted about half of it, because, frankly, terrazzo may be beautiful but it’s cold and slippery. Think polished marble. We had to add a drive to the side so that no one parks on the street. I love this house, but its time is limited. Whoever buys it will raze it and mount another McMansion in its place. The $40K house of my youth sits on property worth $600K today. But this is home to me now, where I go when I visit Florida.

4 comments:

Roxrocks said...

That was fast! Nice work!

bigislandjeepguy said...

i did not even know about this "street view" thing on google maps...too cool! the last house i owned looks exactly the same; the one before that they have really done some nice stuff to (painted the outside, put a new roof on).

CoffeeDog said...

Very interesting stories. Live oaks are amazing, I first saw them only a few years ago when we went to St. Agustine.

tornwordo said...

Lol, it took me a moment to understand "pew". And wharf rats? Eek!