I was 6 years old when we pulled into the driveway of our brand new home on Ivanhoe Rd., about two miles outside of Bartlett, Tenn. We arrived in a shiny, black 1950 Ford Custom. It was 1957.
The three of us kids ran wildly down the halls of our new abode, claiming bedrooms and bathrooms, opening every door to every closet and cabinet. In the days that followed, I climbed through the attic and the crawl space under the house and scouted the acres of woods behind our new home.
Red Fuller was the captain of the local fire department, which consisted solely of a repurposed red Army jeep, a red fire extinguisher and Red Fuller.
Two miles away, in the middle of Bartlett was Gotten Cotton Gin, which had been in operation since the 1800s. The gin closed its doors sometime in the early 1960s as the surrounding farmland slowly disappeared.
In time, more houses sprang up around us. We became part of a neighborhood, then Bartlett annexed us. I went to school, graduated, got a job, moved away and got married. But that modest, three-bedroom home in Bartlett remained the home place.
A year ago, my mother, the last Robinson still living there, passed away.
I never imagined the day would come, but it did, and there we were, my brother and I, cleaning out the rooms, attic and closets of our boyhood home. We piled all the stuff that might have value on makeshift tables and chairs and offered them to neighbors in a morose event called an estate sale. Pieces of our past were soon sprinkled among anonymous citizens of Bartlett.
I put the house on the market. Got an offer in a couple of weeks.
On the day of closing, I took one last look around. The spaces between the moldings and ceilings had opened wide, the ceiling was scarred with repairs from leaky roofs. The once straight roofline sagged heavily, owing to settling and age.
I stood at the back door of the grand dame, as a misty-eyed 63-year-old man, once again confronted by silent rooms and bare walls, but with no regrets, only memories of what seemed a lifetime ago, when a skinny, tow-headed kid ran gleefully down the halls of a new home — overwhelmed with the promise it held for him.
He played here, got lectured and spanked — often with enough force to invite incarceration by today’s standards — and was praised sparingly. But he loved and laughed each day and slept in comfort each night.
I pulled the back door shut for the last time, turned the key and walked away.
Last I heard, another family was living there. But as long as I can draw breath, it will always be the old homeplace to me.