In the last post I mentioned that I'd be visiting some childhood sites on my way home. Today was the day. First there was White Sands National Monument. When I was a child it was a special treat to stop and play in these dunes of gypsum sand that look like snow drifts. Many years ago we took our own children there. Today, along with visions of past visits, I discovered an increasing appreciation for the natural beauty of this northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert.
The next major jolt was a stop in Clovis, New Mexico, the town where one set of grandparents lived as I was growing up. The building where their portrait studio stood has been torn down and rebuilt, and the grocery store that used to be across from it is now a parking lot. Such is life. After confirming what I thought I remembered hearing, I was especially amazed to discover that the house they lived in hasn't even been painted in the forty or so years since I last saw it. The trim on the stucco dwelling must have been touched up, but the color has not changed. Some trees are gone, and windows on the sun porch removed, but otherwise, the house is just the same. How eerie!
Viewing that old house brought back a flood of happy memories of visits there — endless summer days happily cleaning up messes inside because I wanted to, not because I was told. Reading stacks and piles of my aunt's old Nancy Drew mysteries, walking back and forth to the studio, the dank basement, the old electric roaster, an old piano that was always out of tune, an air conditioner that got moved from room to room . . . perhaps even an ice box in the very earliest days of my memory.
I remembered listening to The Sons of the Pioneers keen out their cowboy classics from my grandfather's 45 rpm record player, and the push buttons on the radio that was housed in a chair-side table unit. The tiny television there was my first introduction to “Captain Kangaroo” — how pitiful it seemed that these old people watched this show for children! (Twenty years later I learned that they only had it on for my benefit — not realizing that a 16-year-old would find it undignified.)
Driving across Eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle, we were blasted by a monstrous wind and half the topsoil in the area. I hadn't forgotten the infamous West Texas dust storms, and how well I remembered a forgettable freshman year at Texas Tech in Lubbock.
Yes, I filled out more note cards, and I took a few pictures. The story of this house is more than just my own story — it's part of our family history, and part of the legacy I want to leave for the family.
Visits to childhood sites are a powerful way of connecting with old memories and story ideas. Even if things have changed, you'll be reminded of how they used to be. I stopped by the library to see if I could quickly find pictures of my grandparents' old studio, or references to it in local history publications. Perhaps with more time this would have been fruitful, but not in ten minutes! You might want to plan a little more time for this sort of research.
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal