Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Growing in the Green House

A Magpie Tale, a little bit late

My sister and the green house, 1983

     I grew up in a green house.  My parents selected the five-bedroom, two-story model from the builders' standard floorplans, and chose the mint-chocolate color scheme from the aluminum siding the builders offered.  They could not have known that no one else would choose the same, nor that the builders would decline to dig the full depth of the basement into the slope.  Thus our green house rose head and shoulders above the beige split levels of the neighborhood.  The only rival for its height was the old willow tree in the yard of the farmhouse behind it.  The old man upon whose tomato fields our home was built apologized when he built a fence around his remaining acres.  "It's not because of you," he promised, offering cucumbers.  His farm provided a peaceful view from my window.  When I gave directions to our home, I always finished with, "It's the green house.  You can't miss it."  Our house, set on a hill, could not be hid.

     It fit our family, though.  Somehow we tended to be culturally distinct from our neighbors.  We shared eclectic tastes in music and literature, and a nearly undecipherable sense of humor.  We spent our vacations in places of cultural interest, not among the cheap pleasures of the local beach resort.  We ate foreign recipes, with ingredients grown in our garden and canned in our kitchen.  Our faith, and our devotion to it, set us apart as well.  Not that we were trying to be unusual.  We just did what we liked, what we felt was right.

     I never grew to be tall, but I found myself standing out at school.  I wore clothes that my mother sewed, from patterns and fabric of my choice.  My choice had little to do with prevailing fashions.  I was leery of popular music and television, mostly because of their popularity.  I preferred to form my own opinions, based on my own standards.  When my friends drew their midday sustenance from a candy bar and a diet soda, I kept packing my peanut butter.  I was a good student, because I could be, and I participated in many activities, because they interested me.  Thus I became well-known, if not popular.  My friends were those who respected me the way I was.

     Many things change, of course, but character remains.  The farmhouse and willow have been supplanted by tall houses with tiny yards.  The trees along the street have grown enough to crack the sidewalks, and perhaps enough to obscure the green house, from certain angles.  My parents have moved to a less obtrusive home in the shadow of the everlasting hills.  But it is also green, and it has room for all of us and our shared history.  I live along a busy street, far removed from my childhood home.  When I give directions to my home, people say, "Oh, the yellow house?  I always liked that one."  And beneath its peaked ceilings, I teach my sons to stand tall, and reach higher.


  1. this is lovely- I enjoy reading of others childhoods and idiosyncracies (sp!)that resonate with me. So enjoyable- and your sons are lucky to have you as their mother!


  2. I like you.
    Your Magpies are always great.
    I'd like you even if they weren't.

  3. I love this post, I always enjoy reading about peoples childhoods and how they grew up.

    I think you had a wonderful upbringing, and I love that your house was "the green house", not the run-of-the-mill boring white house amongst a sea of other white houses.

  4. Oh, this is wonderful. I'm glad you decided it was not too late to post! There's something very special about a yellow house.

  5. Teresa---Your green house story explains a lot about you and your family. I respect you for standing out and standing tall.

  6. Greetings, how are you?
    Write a free verse 4 Poets Rally, enjoy poetic friends, you are invited!

    Hope to see you in,

    Love your poetry talent and looking forward to a profound experience with your input.


  7. I used to live in the big yellow house on the corner.

    It's kind of fun to stand out, isn't it? At least when it's for the right reasons.

  8. You are doing a great job of "standing for something" in this small world of literary blogging.