Writing 101: Size Matters

Tell us about the home where you lived when you were twelve. Which town, city, or country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?


When I was 12 we had recently moved into a new house that my Dad had had built out in the sticks in Tennessee. We were seriously out in the middle of nowhere. We could see one house in the distance, until the leaves fell, and then we could see a second one.

Dad was from West Virginia and Mom was from Arkansas. So we settled half way between their families. Needless to say that my two brothers and I were not so happy about our new living situation. But that’s a story that will have to wait. Today let me tell you about our house.

Over the years I often heard Dad say, “Always build a house on a hill. You never know when there will be flooding.” I thought he was exagerating but over the years I have come to see the wisdom behind this idea. We often hear about flooding and the news will show people saying, “I’ve lived here 50 years and I’ve never seen anything like this.” A house on a hill usually avoids this kind of problem. Ours wasn’t on a big hill and we never even saw flooding in the area we lived in, but I’ve kept it mind over the years.

There were only five of us in the family, Dad and Mom and the three boys so we didn’t have a big house. A comfortable living room, a kitchen and three bedrooms. That meant that the younger bro and I shared a bedroom until big bro moved out. I was so proud and happy when I could move into that bedroom!

And we also had a full basement! Basements are important. Without a basement you have to have suitcases and boxes stashed in every nook and cranny. We had a lot of stuff in that basement and even a sofa and some old armchairs. That basement was my get away when I needed time to myself. Well, I would also go walking in the forest but after dark and in the winter I could often be found in the basement.

And, as Tennessee did have it’s share of tornadoes, a basement is a good place to be if one comes uncomfortably close. The basement was dug into the side of a hill so that one side of it was below ground level. That’s where we would have been if a tornado had paid us a visit.

It was a brick house and it looked good sitting up on the side of that hill. It was also set back about 40-50 yards from the road which gave it a sense of privacy. The driveway sloped up from the road and we usually heard any cars coming to visit. If we didn’t hear them, our dog, Bob, would let us know by getting excited and barking at them.

And let’s not forget the front porch. Sitting in the two-seat swing on a hot day sipping ice tea, the good life! When the weather was good the front porch was a second living room but we didn’t have to worrry about making a mess there. Eating watermelon and seeing how far we could spit the seeds or brushing Bob and gettinging the ticks off of him. It was a good place to sit back and relax, to have serious conversations or to have a laugh together.

It was a good, comfortable house and I’m sorry to say that I’ve never been back there. After I graduated and went in the Navy, my parents and younger brother moved away to New Mexico and my older brother settled in Georgia. I would like to go back and see it. I’m sure it would seem small now. It’s funny how houses seem so big when you’re young and if you go back later in life you’re surprised at how small they are.

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