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Sunday, June 06, 2010

Heart Homemakers

The ubiquitous "they" say home is where the heart is. I've been thinking about that today, and about what it is that makes that home where the heart is home. I was born at Bryan. It's easy for that not to be home, since we left within a week or two of my birth. The first home I remember was Lubbock, 23rd Street, Roscoe Wilson Elementary School, Saint John's United Methodist Church. Having left Lubbock in 1956, months after my 9th birthday, it would seem i would remember little, but that's not true. Despite a lifelong struggle with remembering names, I can name names there. Next door were the Hamills on one side, with their frequent visitor, granddaughter Linda Kay Dean. On the other side were the Brennemans, and the daughter was Mary Ann and played the piano. She was about my older sister's age. Across the street was Jimmy Pinkerton, on whom Carol at seven had a crush. Down the street was a little boy. I bet I eventually come up with his name. In the bricks on his porch coin was lodged and no amount of work by pudgy hands would get it out. A couple of blocks down the street was Helen Musick. Another friend in a fancy colonial house was Cherry. Mother and Daddy played canasta with Mr. and Mrs. Kinnon (though I admit I remembered it as the Kitchens but used the name in other writing and sister Carol reminded me I was wrong.) I can name my kindergarden and first through third grade teachers -- all in all a remarkable task for someone as name challenged as I am for people I see at least weekly and interact with regularly.

I've lived in Abilene since March, 1979. I easily answer "Abilene" when asked where I'm from. But home? Home could be Austin where I lived five years, Fort Worth for a couple, a year or so in Wichita Falls or Nashville, Tennessee. No. Home is Quanah where I lived from 1956 to 1965, then returned from college and after my first year of employment. And it's where the parentals lived. It wasn't home from the beginning. I had resentments about it. I wrote an impassioned essay several years ago - in March, 2007, but who's counting - that sets out the whole roller-coaster relationship. I guess I'll put it here - maybe. It was written at the assisted living facility where my parents were living. I have left it unchanged except for anything that might be disparaging about other people. So here it is with the email that triggered it.


Jhe T.

Wow. What a question. Short answer:
Texas State Historical Association article on Quanah, Texas

More than you wanted to know answer....

Quanah was my first great resentment and is and always will be home. I
would have told you in 1956 and for years thereafter it meant fierce,
warriorlike, savage like its namesake Quanah Parker, the last great
chief of the Comanches. In retrospect the meaning of the half-breed's
name seems more appropriate: fragrant.

I'm in Quanah. Carol left this morning.

What is Quanah?

Quanah is 150 miles and was 30 times smaller than Lubbock where I left many friends, friends I remember by name though I was nine and haven't been able to remember people's names since. Quanah is where I visited right before we moved there and somebody at church who didn't know my name called "Red Rover, Red Rover, let Fat Domino come over." Quanah is where I ran when they called that and didn't break through the line because I was crying. Quanah is marching in the high school band in 8th grade because the football team with to state and the band was lousy, needed the bodies. Quanah is playing my saxophone so loud during marching contest that one of the contest judges commented to the band director about it. Quanah is the man at the bus station who told a pudgy lonely miserable girl that she had a pretty face. Quanah is winning the Letter Q award for Speech when I never went to speech class because Rick, Douglas, and I put together a debate program for Quanah our senior year and the only time we could meet was during the speech class time. Quanah is changing debate partners repeatedly all year long and losing the first round at district when the boys went own to win second in Regional and I was better than them. Quanah is never having a date with anybody except one boy who's living the gay life in Austin now. Quanah is being named the band sweetheart and being shocked, even embarrassed. Quanah is First Methodist Church when Daddy was Sunday School Superintendent and song leader, Mother was Children's Education Director in the church and conference, Mary Ellen was Senior High MYF president and I was the same in Junior High. Quanah is walking into a church service with my three sisters and Ross Berry Magee turning around and saying, "There come the giggling Breedloves." Quanah is the town we came to from Lubbock before we moved here, getting to the lonely stretch of road between here and Paducah about dusk and seeing millions of jackrabbits on what we dubbed Jackrabbit Road. Quanah is Daddy as mayor trying to decide if he was going to run for reelection again, not being able to make up his mind, finally deciding and Mother reading it in the Quanah Tribune-Chief. Quanah is the library Mother and Mrs. Sampley put together in the old fire house where I worked for free cataloguing books with Anne Lowe. Quanah is the Thompson Sawyer Library built during the almost 50 years Mother was president of the Library board with the new Breedlove Reading Room for children. Quanah is where Daddy was Outstanding Citizen of the Year for 1974 and Mother got the lifetime achievement award in 1988. Quanah is taking piano lessons from Mrs. Willingham who hit your knuckles with a ruler if you flattened your hands. Quanah is leaving high school every Thursday to ride with the Ag teacher to Rotary where Daddy led the singing and my hands were too pudgy to play "Smile" as fast as he sang it even after practicing all summer long so I wouldn't be embarrassed. Again. Quanah was playing the piano for the Men's Bible Class and the clip on ear rings and double strand pearl necklace they gave me for graduation. Quanah is sitting at the piano bench in the junior high Sunday School room when Daddy came upstairs to lead singing and being embarrassed when he forgot the words to the Lord's Prayer. Quanah is being 4th in my graduating class when they just recognized the top three, the same 4th place two of my sisters had after Mother and her brother and sister had all be salutatorian in Chillicothe High School fifteen miles away. Quanah is reading book after book because they were my friends. Quanah is Mother taking me to see Dr. Brooks at the age of 13 because I weighed 130 pounds and Quanah is where I started a 44 year diet that ended December 17, 2006. Quanah is Susan Wey sitting between Bob Baucum and me watching Ben Hur and not knowing whether to cry with me or laugh at Bob's jokes. Quanah is playing in a saxophone quartet with Bob Baucum, somebody Barnes who played baritone sax, and Kinky Prescott (Kinky's brother is my brother-in-law, the Barnes is a cousin of my Barnes first cousins) and getting to state but getting a 3. Quanah is getting a letter Q blanket for going to state, but getting a blanket because I was a graduate by the time I got it and didn't want a letter jacket. Quanah is living on dirt streets a block from three of the four schools in town because the mayor didn't want people to think he played favorites and paved his own streets before others were paved, getting pavement only when an outside consultant said those streets needed to be paved. Quanah is water with the taste of gypsum when you could get water, water so scare it always was rationed especially if you were the mayor's kid. Quanah is Daddy's serving on the Greenbelt Water Supply Board (as president) and bringing water from 90 miles away so we had good water after I went away to school. Quanah is a hometown that led me to an odd habit when I started graduate school in Nashville of stopping in Bentonville, staying at the same Holiday Inn each time, and taking two or three baths a night in lots of water, luxuriating in it. Quanah is Anderson Sheet Metal, started there by Granddaddy in the 1930's when he moved his tin shop from Chillicothe and sold gins all over West Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Quanah is where Granddaddy turned out his patented cottonhouse valve system which Continental Gins never paid him royalties for and the telescoping suction device that emptied cotton trailers that he invented but Continental Gins stole the patent for and to whom he always paid royalties. Quanah is where my only boy cousin of eight first cousins lived, the only cousin my age and the president of my senior class, and where as a kid he bit my Flinch card and broke my croquette stick when I beat him, where he yelled at me when he tried to teach me to catch a football and I closed my eyes when he threw it at me. Quanah is 1904 club where my family has been active and prominent since the 30's. Quanah is being president of the Junior 1904 club. Quanah is competing is 4-H cooking demonstration contest, making the mistake the first year of making a congealed salad nobody in the family particularly liked, then correcting that the second year with a lemon pie everybody liked, and eating the results. Practicing LOTS of times with Darlene Beavers my partner. Quanah is getting married in the grand old church with Pop, my Breedlove grandfather, and Dan Carter as the ministers, getting my Baptist friend Dan into a robe, forgetting to tell him not to wear a suit with huge brown and white checks underneath it. Quanah is Mike forgetting part of the memorized vows and not promising to cherish me or some essential part.

Quanah is the past.

Quanah is aging parents, struggling to live one day at a time the hard way. Quanah is mother forgetting she ever got married to Daddy on October 19, 1941, figuring she's just lived with him all these years. Quanah is Mother actually suggesting we might put Daddy somewhere else and she might stay here in the assisted living apartment. Quanah is the house that was ours for 50 years almost but won't be in a few weeks. Quanah is pain. Quanah is good people who adore my folks and sit and shake their heads when they talk to them now. Quanahis fragrant, often sweet but sometimes odious.

Good night from Quanah.

What makes some place home? What makes home where your heart is? If we were to do an anthology on home, would it be something you'd want to write about? I originally said to use the comments, but I don't have comments on this blog, and I don't know how to add them to the code. So, I guess you're stuck with emailing me.

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