12 Cedar Drive

My sister took this picture recently — it’s the house we lived in the year I learned to read.

I remember a lot of things about this house — it’s just that none of them are in this picture. In 1967, it was a green place — there was a gnarled mulberry along the side and climbing roses and a weeping willow and a grassy lawn. There was a lot of shade. There was no fence. It didn’t look like a place where poor people live. The front porch wasn’t messy and it was a lot bigger.

We lived there for just a few years, maybe only one. Maryland summers were hot and muggy. You could walk down the road and buy an ice cream for almost nothing and eat it on the way home. And then, you’d walk inside and it would be shady, clean and cool.

Around my birthday that year, I stood at a table turning the pages of one of my father’s books, a big thick book, and noticing that the page numbers went from six to seven or seven to eight and thinking, I’m a year older; getting older is like turning a page in a book. This was the place where I read to my mother, sitting on a chair in the kitchen while she made fried chicken, See Jane run. Run, Jane, run. It was the place I read The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Had I been asked before seeing this picture, I could not have described the house itself. But it turns out I know this house well. It is the house I point to in every small town we drive through: the little white house with the peaked roof that promises shade and silence for reading and writing. It is the house I stopped in front of in Quincy a few days ago and coveted. It is the house I have always said I will live in when I get old, the house where I’ll read books on the porch in the summer evenings, where I’ll write novels in a cool room with a slanted ceiling. It is the house of my dreams. It’s just that I never knew I had lived in it already.


18 thoughts on “12 Cedar Drive

  1. Hi Lily,
    That is a beautiful description and feeling about your first house, or the first one that is still a dream. I have so many memories of my house that I grew up in (for about 20 years). The front porch, the books, and thunderstorms, the ice cream store, or truck with the bells, and especially the fireflies. You must have had fireflies.
    Thanks for writing that. My brother went back to Ohio and took pictures of our house decades after we left. He even went inside. Said it was amazingly smaller than it used to be. Glad you are back and posting pictures and writing cool thoughts. Smokey

  2. An evocative memory… The place where you learned to read. And “it was a lot bigger.” Memories and dreams and houses… there’s a whole thing there.

    And what’s up with the gravestone in the yard of the house across the street (after looking at your sister’s website)? There’s got to be a story there…

  3. We never did find out about the gravestone across the street. It was a creepy thing.

    The summer we spent in Glen Burnie I discovered vampire magazines. šŸ™‚ It was very hot, the attic where my brother’s and cousins slept was like an oven.

    That was the year our Aunt Teresa and her sons moved back in with us. They lived with us for that summer while Mom worked for a dentist.

    Not all the houses in that area suffered like this one has. The house next door looked fine.

    That was the year we actually got to have a TV. It didn’t last long, Dad got rid of it almost immediately. The little store where we could get icecream was just half a block away. I didn’t get a chance to photograph that.

  4. nice thoughts lily. funny how the houses seem smaller than when we lived in them. that’s mostly been my experience too šŸ™‚

  5. How lovely to have such fond memories of the house you grew up in. Whenever I see the kind of 1930’s bay fronted semi that housed my own early childhood, I want to run a mile!

  6. Litlove, Perhaps because we lived in this house only a year, it’s been allowed to age gracefully in memory. We moved every three years for a long time, and then we settled for quite a few years in a house I think must be a lot like the bay fronted semi you describe — possibly worse. I’ll just say that the houses in which you spend your adolescence are seldom nice places.

    Susan — I’m so glad you took this picture and could tell Fencer just how creepy that gravestone was. Smokey, if there were fireflies, I didn’t know that was what they were called. I love the idea of Ohio, and envy you that house.

    When you’re little, Deb, everything looks different. It’s a good thing to remember.

  7. Oh Bloglily – we learnt to read from the same book! I remember my mum teaching me to read from Peter and Jane on the verandah of the flat we lived in in Bahrain. I was only 3 and couldn’t see the point of reading. I flew into a tantrum and threw the book the length of the verandah. I’m sure I got into big trouble for that.

    Today my mum was telling me off for buying so many books at the secondhand shops. I said to her: “See what you unleashed when you taught me how to read?” My mum replied: “There was no stopping you.” She must have forgotten about the book-throwing incident!

  8. What a beautifully evocative post. Thanks for sharing those memories. The start of reading is such a magical thing. I have no clear memories of the houses I lived in before I turned four (except for those formed from photos) and my parents still live in the house that we moved to at that point. But even though I have a continuing relationship with that house, I still feel as if it contains within it other different houses from my memories of what it felt like to live there at different points in my life.

  9. I really enjoyed reading this and catching up on your recent posts. I love the idea of memories tied to reading. Many of my fondest childhood memories are associated with books and reading.

  10. Fortunately, my mother still lives in the house where I grew up. It’s nice to be able to visit it whenever you want, and to go up to your old room, although it’s nothing like it was when I lived there.

  11. Sometimes I force myself to drive by the home I grew up in, but I am never very happy that I did afterwards.

    It seems as if someone took out the magic and replaced it with the mundane — no more imagined secret passages waiting to be discovered, no ghosts for friends, no hidden worlds behind the walls.

    When I drive by — it seems cold now. Dead. It hurts to see a house, once filled with life and love, seem so dark.

    And yet, I continue to drive by about once a year, hoping to see something shine from out the second floor window, something that reminds me of what it once was.

  12. The house I grew up in is still home to my brother and his family of four.
    When I visit, I almost expect to see me as a child riding up and down the “long room” on my tricycle. It’s almost disappointing when I don’t. I loved that room – it ran the full width of the house and was where we played and ate and fought and were family.

    It is still a home to love and laughter but it feels different and somehow alien when I visit. Different lives are being lived there and different memories created, which are paving over what we left behind.

  13. A beautiful post Bloglily! What great memories to carry with you. I still remember my first library. It was the bookmobile and I had a little manialla-yellow rectangle of cardstock for a library card. It was magical.


  14. Nice memories! Does it feel like the house is really tiny now in comparison to when you were young? My parents still live in the same house, and every time I go there I wonder how we all managed to fit!

  15. Hey Sis…haven’t checked in for a while and noticed the old house. You are correct, it is much smaller than I recall. I have very fond memories of the place. (Stealing Dad’s cigs for my first and last smoke, there is a small church nearby that had a field where we played baseball, watch the Dodgers play Baltimore in the world series on the little black and white that Dad unpacked from storage when we away in Germany and most of all there were great woods not far from the house)…Great memories.

  16. I really enjoyed reading this memory. It is so much the way things seem when we look back on them, and none of what WAS, IS. But that is what we remember. It made me think of some similar trips i’ve made, not with houses, but with places. Funny, how it goes…

  17. I think someone would be doing us all a huge favor if they started a sort of community access web site where people could write in and talk about loved spaces — wouldn’t it be wonderful to read about the loft, the tent, the dormered room, the window seat, the nook in the dining room, the treehouse, the places of childhood that inform our sense of the right place to live and dream? It’s lovely to read here about the memories so many of us have of these places.

    There’s a wonderful book by the french philosopher Gaston Bachelard, called the Poetics of Space, that’s about this very thing: our emotional responses to physical spaces. And, in particular, the spaces we lived in when we were children.

    Thank you, all of you, for so many eloquent tributes to those places.

  18. Hi Lily,

    I remember the house, especially the mulberry tree. We built a fort in the tree. Forts are important to boys. I remember the Orioles – and the woods across the street. Good memories.


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