My parents moved around frequently when I was a child. We rarely lived in one place more than a couple years. But I lived at 8571 Wild Pony Drive for almost seven. It was in a little town called Glen Avon, which was part of a much larger city called Riverside. I have lived in several homes in Riverside during my life, but this is the place I stayed the longest.
It was a ranch style home that my parents bought brand new, on a half acre of land. We owned a horse for a while, Shasta, who was not ride-able, but whom I loved spending time with. I had a guinea pig for a little while, who lived in a big, roomy fish aquarium padded with pine chips, and we always had a cat or two, who we had to protect the guinea pig from. We also had two Golden Retrievers, Dinky and Toby, who had a couple of litters of puppies that my parents sold for a few hundred bucks a pop and paid for Christmas with.
One year, my parents went to Vegas and won some money gambling, which they used to landscape our backyard. They planted grass and flowers, put in a sprinkler system, and bought a swing set for us kids, with lots of sand for insulated falls off the monkey bars. They cemented a patio right outside the back sliding glass door, and bought a picnic table and barbeque. Pretty sweet.
We had both a living room and a family room, although confusingly enough, the living room was where we watched TV and the family room was off limits. My mom had fancy furniture we kids were not allowed to sit on in there, with her upright piano and constantly present vacuum tracks on the carpet. There were three bedrooms. My sister and I shared one and my brother had his own, a fact that I understand as an adult but hated as a child. I had a trundle day bed, which meant my sister's bed slid underneath my own and was pulled out at night.
My mom has always been a decorator, and I remember the years she had an infatuation with all things Southwestern, the paintings she bought at the swap meet, the baskets that adorned our walls.... And then there was the year of Mauve, which I have not quite recovered from to this day. She painted my room bright, sunshiny yellow one year when I asked her to, even though I know she secretly hated it. It was kind of like the year I asked for a spice cake for my birthday, mainly to impress my dad, even though I knew my mom probably wouldn't eat any of it.
We lived in a hot climate, in the valley of Southern California, and we tended to get wolf spiders in the house, which terrified me. I was supposed to be in charge of cleaning the front bathroom, which all us kids shared, but there reached a point where I was no longer willing to clean up after my brother and flat refused.
Our kitchen was tiny but we had an adjoining dining room that made up for it. We had a hutch with fancy dishes and a beautiful table, which my dad still has. There was a fireplace, which was lovely every winter when the air got crisp. I remember my mom sometimes picking up a Duraflame log from Stater Brothers, and how fascinating I found all the different colors that blazed once it was lit. One of my favorite things was the clock my dad bought to go on the mantle. It chimed on the hour and I was quite taken by it.
My parents shared the master bedroom which had the biggest walk-in closet I had ever seen up until that point in my life. My mom's clothes hung on one side, my dad's on the other. I remember a year when my mom took in a pregnant cat, and she kept her in there so the poor thing could give birth in peace, away from our curious eyes. My mom has always loved animals.
They had a sliding glass door that opened to the backyard, where for a while we had a jacuzzi that bubbled but did not get warm. They had a little adjoining bathroom, with very little storage space, which meant all my mom's perfumes and hair products, her curling iron and blow drier, and all her makeup, cluttered their tiny sink and counter area. I recall that there was always some stubble around the sink, where my father had shaved and failed to rinse away all the evidence. Their shower was not overly large, but had two seats that came out from the wall. I remember thinking it was quite impressive when I was little.
There was a teeny tiny library a couple of blocks from our house, where I would ride my bike and fill up my backpack with books, and then come home and hide under the desk and read as much as I could before my mom would call me for something. I was one of those nerdy kinds of kids that got books for my birthday and Christmas.
We were easy walking distance to both my elementary and middle schools, so I walked most days, unless it was too cold, when my mom would drive me. She was a stay-at-home mom until my parents divorced, when I was thirteen. Then she got a full time job and remarried to a man she met at her volley ball league, and we moved away.
I still miss this little home because it holds for me memories of one of the most stable points of my childhood. The last couple of years we were there, it was obvious to me, a blooming adolescent, that my parents' marriage was failing. I remember the yelling and the tension. After they got divorced I never wished, like so many children do, that my parents would get back together. But I don't think I was prepared for either of them to be in new relationships, either. That was very hard for me.
I talked to my brother on the phone today. He believes many of his familial relationships were profoundly affected by my parents' divorce. I had never really considered this, but I am sure it is not just true for him. We were all affected, in our own way.
I have been married seventeen years now, and I understand that marriage can be really, really hard. I am not so judgmental of my parents as I used to be. They are both remarried now and happy. Their spouses are good to them. I am glad.
One of the things I always wanted as a kid, and that my parents talked many times about getting but never did, was a pool. My friend Corina, who lived up our street, had one, and I was green with envy. My mom lives in Central Florida now, with her husband John, and they have one. My kids have greatly enjoyed summer visits there, where they have swam and sunburned every year. There's a mini-fridge outside, where they keep bottled water and Gatorades for the kids.
My dad still lives in California, and I only get to see him every couple years. He lives near the beach now, with his wife Linda and his Springer Spaniel, Coco. But we talk every week or two, and he seems so much happier, so much more settled. It makes me happy to see him that way.
I recently reminisced with my husband, and we were both a little startled to realize the fact that we have both been living here, forty-five minutes outside of Savannah, Georgia, for going on eleven years. This is the longest he or I have lived anywhere, ever, in all our lives. We have similar backgrounds, his parents divorced when he was eight and are both remarried as well.
I still miss California, which is something I didn't really anticipate, and I sometimes still have dreams where I'm living on Wild Pony Drive.
I don't know if there is a way to really measure how much the places we have lived have shaped us, but I'm sure they do. I have some tough memories, but I have lots of good ones too. All in all, I have so much to be thankful for.