Sunday, June 25, 2006

Scavenging For My Past, Part 1

One of the things I find myself doing as I teach is I tell my students tidbits about my past including family history. As we discuss colonization, the Indian Removal Act, or the Civil War I tell students extra bits of information I know about the topic or I share a real family connection I have to the event.

I believe it is extremely important for any social studies teacher who discusses history with students to help them connect to what they are studying either through personal connections they can discover on their own or through vicarious connections I can provide for them. I find that these connections maintain interest and motivation which in turn increases retention of the content.

My personal connections are very important to me. As a young girl I spent many hours sitting and talking with my maternal grandfather as well as my father’s father and his second wife. She was a lovely, gentle person had known both sides of my family for many years. She was a treasure trove of lore. My mother is a natural born story-teller and used to keep my sister and I enthralled as she told stories about her childhood. My father, after he retired began researching his family roots and quite frankly I need to spend several days with him to allow him to pass all of his family knowledge to me before we both forget who all those serious looking frontier folk are in the old brown photographs. I also benefited from stories told by my great-grandmother (I wrote about my sticky situation during her funeral here) and, I am deluged with assorted aunts, uncles, and cousins who love their family stories as much as I do. Quite simply…we share, sometimes a little too much.

Daughter Dear will be gone all week on a church trip. Since Mom’s Taxi Service will be on hiatus all week I have decided to whittle away at my “Gee, if I ever have the time I’d like to…” list. I’m going exploring. I’m going to visit my past. Come along this week as I do some visiting, looking, exploring, and re-live some good memories and some bad. I’m off to remember connections I already have and to make some new ones to share with my students.

I grew up in the middle of a lumberyard that my dad managed. The house I lived in was a Craftsman type house that was not original to the property. Folks had told my mom that the house had been built in 1929 and had sat in a different spot on the property. When the showroom for the lumberyard was built the house had been moved to a spot next to the store. A parking lot separated my house from my dad’s business. Early on after moving into the house we located a baby’s handprint and footprint on a cement ledge along with the date 1929.

My house was a wonderful box-type house with the rooms all connecting to one another----there were no hallways at all. There were lovely, solid wood French doors that opened up from the living room into my parent’s bedroom and another set that opened up into what was the dining room-----we used it as a family room. The floors were solid pine and we had some lovely fireplaces in three rooms, but they had long since been plugged up for some reason. We managed, I don’t know how, with one bathroom between four people. My dad suffered for many years with a house full of girls. There was one large vent for our floor furnace so that meant we were cold in the winter and hot in the summer until we put in window air conditioning units.

We moved into my house when I was five. The summer after my freshman year of college my dad announced his retirement and he and mom moved to his ancestral property in Canton, Georgia. I left the only home I had every really known.

It was shortly after our move that we heard on the news late one night that the lumberyard was on fire. Mother’s worst fear the entire time we had lived there had finally come true. Think about a Home Depot catching on fire with all of the chemicals and propellants, the lumber and the lumber, and the lumber. Get the idea? It was a ferocious fire and a big news story with helicopters, live updates, and rumors that it had been set. Friends in the area later told us all about it. Interstate 285 borders the property on the far side and the fire was so intense they had to stop traffic on the expressway.

Amazingly we heard my house had survived. The showroom and warehouse was a complete loss and was bulldozed, loaded onto dump trucks, and carried away. The company dad had worked for sold the property. A few years ago when I was wishing I could see my house again a family friend told me the house had not been destroyed, but had been moved. I was overjoyed. She told me the house had been moved down the road and had been placed on a lot down Rivertown Road in Fairburn, Georgia.

I still travel through that area quite often and occasionally I creep down Rivertown Road to see if I can locate my house. I’ve even enlisted my children at various times to help. They’ve only seen the house in photos so I don’t know what good they could really do me, but they try.

I’m determined to find out what happened to my house. Is it still tangible----something I can touch, see, and smell, or is it gone forever only to live in my memories?

I’m going to spend the coming week exploring my past, facing it headlong by walking over it and through it, and I invite you, dear reader, to journey with me.

See part two here.

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