Before the World Became Real

When I was a kid, we lived next door to my best friend. There was a house in between ours, technically, but because we all had big pastures out behind our houses, we could cut across the intervening property and go back and forth on our own, which we did, all the time.

My friend's house was all kinds of fun. They had horses in their pasture to pet and feed sugar cubes to out of our flat palms, a real barn, and a friendly red Doberman named Jake who ate horse poop and then let out big, smelly gas bombs. There were loud hard core wrestling matches on the living room floor and running races on the back lawn that left me breathless. They had a big extended Italian family filled with Vanessas and Angelicas and Vivianas and a kitchen table loaded with homemade ravioli and spaghetti on Friday nights. There were apple trees with hard little green apples that we tasted over and over again waiting for the sweetness to arrive and garden beds brimming with marigolds that we pulled apart for their seeds, saving the long seed pods in glass baby food jars to plant in the spring. There were messy closets to hide in and big shady evergreen trees out front to pretend under and a big lawn with old fashioned chug chug sprinklers to run through when it got too hot to bear.

Our house held its own collection of charms, including an old spray booth room in the garage that my parents converted into a play house for me, filled with doll beds and a high chair and a little rug on the floor where we'd play for hours. Our garage was also sometimes home to deer my dad had hunted, strung up upside down from the rafters while he dressed them and us kids stared in morbid curiosity. And once, to a moving blanket full of baby snakes in shock to be shaken from their nest. We had a big billy goat, appropriately named Billy, in our pasture, who loved to be scratched between his horns. Billy came home in the backseat of our brown Mercedes when he was just five days old, on my six year old lap. There are pictures of him barely bigger than my easter basket, and I fed him milk from a glass Seven-Up bottle with a big black nipple attached. When I got the chicken pox, my mom let Billy come in the house to keep me company where he sideways jumped on the sofa and skidded over the coffee table and left brown goat pellets behind. He grew up huge, with big curved pointed and ringed brown horns, and loved to wrestle with my father and butt against his legs with his big goat head, while always remembering to be gentle with me.

NowThisLife.com - Billy
Billy & me
Our long long driveway proved perfect for tricycle rides dragging stuffed animals behind, and plenty large for learning to ride my purple two wheeler when I was seven. No training wheels, just starting again and again and again, one foot on the higher pedal, trying to get some momentum. Nobody thought to help you much back then with bike learning...it was just here you go, go try. And you did.

NowThisLife.com - Purple Bike
Always a purple bike
Our backyard, between the house and the garage, provided a home to two adorable fuzzy ducklings who grew up into mean adults that my mom had to coral into their "pen" each night, until finally they flew away and joined the wild ducks at a nearby pond. It was also home to two box turtles, Avrabell and Brother John, and finally, to my absolute delight, a golden Cocker Spaniel puppy, Dreamy, brought home right out of the pet store window. Dreamy also loved the house next door and dug tunnels under our fence so she could make a mad dash across that back pasture and join Jake and Schatzi, her daschund friend, for her own version of wrestling matches and lawn races.

NowThisLife.com - Ducklings
Quack & Splash
I loved the freedom of living in that house, the coming and going, the kids outside and parents inside, in their two separate worlds. I loved being near the horses, and eating big bowls of macaroni while our parents ate steaks. I loved playing store in the bedroom, labeling all of the little items with prices and then going "shopping." I loved laughing with our moms while they did their exercises in the living room, duck walks and leg lifts and running in place.

I loved my mom and dad inch worming me to bed each night.

But then, one day, my parents sat me down in that living room and told me that they were divorcing. My dad moved to an apartment a few miles away, complete with a waterbed for him and his new girlfriend, a pinball machine in the living room, a pillow chair, and sleeping bag weekends on the floor.

I can still remember the phone number to our little house, the ivy filled front yard, the olive green carpeting and the oven that sat on a drop down table instead of being built in. I clearly recall being so little that the doorknob in the bathroom was taller than I was. I remember when summer felt like it lasted forever. I remember my puppy growing up and my daddy moving away.

NowThisLife.com - Dreamy
We eventually sold our house and bought a new condo with a pretty brick patio and pathways for bike rides, with a different color shag carpet in every room, with a playroom inside instead of out in the garage. We made new friends and new memories.

But that first house, that house was childhood. My being was wrapped around its rooms, caught up in its pasture, sewn up in its walls. It belonged to a time before the world became real, when it only existed there, in my imagination, when I believed that everything would always remain the same...that little girls would take forever to grow up, that puppies and goats would never grow old, that daddies would always love you.

I was so very lucky to have it.

                                                                                                        This post inspired by Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writing Workshop.


  1. I just have to say I loved reading about your childhood memories. I felt like I was there too! You have some very fond memories of that first house! I completely understand what you mean about life before the world became real. I feel the same way about the few childhood snip its I have of life I have prior to my parents splitting up.

    1. Thank you for visiting and commenting...love Mama Kat's followers!

  2. It's crazy how the house you grew up in stays so fresh in your memory, and how whenever you think of being a kid, you think of that house. I hope my kids can have memories like that!

    1. It's also amazing that the things you remember probably aren't anything that your mom hoped you would. I definitely see that with my daughter. Maybe it takes some of the pressure off?

      Thanks for visiting!

  3. Aw, such a wonderful, yet bittersweet post. And I came by at just the right time to catch your picture with the goat. So cute!!!!

  4. Loved reading this post! I wonder what my kids will remember about their childhood when they are adults.

    I had a bike very similar to yours when I was a kid, basket and all :)

    Visiting from Mama Kat's!

  5. Oh I LOVE this! Absolutely captivating, so sweet and just heart wrenching. Why do all great things have to come to an end?

  6. I hate reading accounts like these because I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm always hoping this time it won't. But it seems it always does. So sorry that things didn't work out for your parents, but they left you with the best gift of all: good memories. And a great set of pics.

    1. I didn't realize when I started writing this that it would end a bit sadly...you never know where the words will lead you. Thank you for visiting.

  7. What a lovely post full of searing images and raw honesty. Thank you for sharing.


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