Flamingo Drive

Photo Credit: Zillow (our old house as it looks today)

I live two blocks from where I grew up”

Flamingo Drive was actually a spacious culdesac formed by a semi-circle of unique houses, built in the fifties, landscaped with birds of paradise, red bottle-brush bushes, and roses. Giant magnolia, pine, and palm trees shaded the yards. As if fringe on a blanket the cement driveways lined the sidewalks. There was a pool in every other backyard, and most of the homes were swathed in taupe or grey, but our house had a bright turquoise front door which Mom adored. The towering telephone pole that serviced the entire neighborhood acted as a home base for freeze tag, hide-in-seek, and a place to gather. With one to four kids per house, we never lacked a playmate on Flamingo Drive or someone to walk to 7-11 for an afternoon Slurpee. Our mothers spent the summer frying up bacon and eggs in the morning, grabbing a game of tennis before the sun reached its zenith, racing home to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and catch an episode of As the World Turns while ironing a week’s worth of clothes. On the weekends if we were lucky Mom would order Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner with biscuits and corn. She chased us off the freshly mopped floors and out into a carefree life. I thought things would never change.

I live two blocks from where I grew up”

My sister and I spent much of our time in a make-believe world that our parents could not reach or fathom. They were enjoying a cold beer by the pool, wrestling with their adult issues, while Nancy and I were carried off by knights in shining armor to plastic barbie mansions. It was an era where children were expected to entertain themselves. Our Mom appeared larger than life, we observed her from a distance, emulated her mannerisms, even practiced holding martini glasses with our pinkies extended. We would grow up to admire her more than she ever knew.

I live two blocks from where I grew up”

Dad would stand on the porch in the early evening and whistle, I can still hear the loud shrills of his high-pitched blended tones, calling us in from our play, dinner was about to be served, and our hands were to be clean. Mom would be rustling up a salad with fresh fixings from the garden, in sandals with white ankle socks, Bermuda shorts, clip-on earrings which she pulled off in the evening, and a white t-shirt tucked neatly in the waistband. Dad would be standing beside her prepping the steaks with mysterious seasonings, he would be barefoot, in baggy jeans, but with a button-down shirt and shabby apron. It was as if watching the tango in that small hot kitchen, with Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass playing on the stereo. They had a distinct rhythm, and familiar postures, with integral pauses to refill their wine glasses. 

In the next room, Nancy would be in Dad’s recliner, and I would be curled up on the couch watching the latest episode of the Flying Nun. We’d eat dinner at the antique round table in the family room, TV muted, with Mom saying “Dick, this is too spicy.” Nancy would kick me under the table as I giggled, Dad would smirk while chewing his steak, and that is how those simple words became our evening prayer. Irreverence abounded. Dad surprised Mom with the dining room set several years ago, it had a matching hutch, she never liked the style. But not wanting to hurt his feelings, it was something he never knew, and we all internalized this idiosyncrasy.

I live two blocks from where I grew up”

On hot nights after dinner Mom and Dad would enjoy a glass of wine on the green patio chairs under the tiki lights, watching Nancy and I pretend to be mermaids in the deep end of the pool. Every couple of minutes Mom would say, “Dick, have they been down there too long?” Dad would laugh, “no Ann, they’re mermaids.” Oh, how I remember those long languid evenings, Mom left a glass of water on my nightstand, it was so hot we slept in our underwear on top of the sheets, waiting for the cool of the morning. Most of what I know I learned from my Mom. 

I live two blocks from where I grew up”

My sister was two years older than me, when she was eleven or twelve, we protected each other much more than we fought. I knew that she read way past her bedtime with a flashlight under the covers and I kept that secret my entire life. Just about every other night I would slip into her room, especially if I had a nightmare, she’d lift the warm sheet and let me in, sometimes telling me a sweet story to calm my fears. I can still hear her quiet voice in the dark, not the words, just the soothing sounds that ushered me into a deep rest. 

I live two blocks from where I grew up”

I’ll be sixty-two in a few weeks, I don’t know why but I drove by our old house today before driving to my sisters, still looking for refuge from a difficult world. She opens the door and ushers me in, her in the recliner, me on the couch just like in the old days, she continues to calm my fears and put me to rest. Oh, how I wish my Mom and Dad were still alive. They would be in their eighties now. When your parents are alive you have this fabricated barrier between you and death, but also a place to hang your adulting hat when needed, ask your Mom for peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s Mother’s Day today, her gift would be on the hearth wrapped in pink paper with a pretty ribbon. I remember one year Nancy and I made her a tape of our favorite songs, recording our favorite stories of Mom in between the music. Dad found her outside in the car, the only place she could play a cassette, listening intently, and crying intermittently. We found that little tape in her dresser drawer after she died. She kept it all these years. 

I live two blocks from where I grew up”

This life is not what it used to be, simple, carefree, uncomplicated. I don’t know what I’m looking for when I drive by the old house? I have this urge to chase the people out of my home and go in search of evidence of me. I want to pretend for a moment that nothing has changed, that Laurie, Lori, Sheila, and Nancy will gather at the telephone pole to complain about our Moms, the heat, and the end of the summer. I want to hear that whistle one last time, calling me home, steaks sizzling on the grill, Mom complaining about the spice, Nancy kicking me under the table. And perhaps someday I will. 

I’m Living in the Gap, missing my Mom, closing my eyes, and letting the memories take me two blocks from where I live.

*Inspired by a beautiful poem I just read called “Looking for The Gulf Motel” by Richard Blanco

32 Comments

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  1. You had a detached house, a patio, a pool, and a barbecue.
    How different our childhoods were, how very different indeed.
    But your recollections took me there, observing from outside, smelling the sizzling steaks.
    And I can imagine Herb Alpert playing, as my dad played that too.
    The one similarity.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pete, we lived in the suburbs, an hour away from San Francisco, our big city. I would say California is one big suburb dotted with a few cool cities. I had a lovely childhood and I guess today I’m missing my Mom! They used to play that Whip Cream album all the time. Nancy and I knew every song. I was at Nancy’s house yesterday when I wrote this piece and when we played a few of the songs on you.tube, it made us cry! We’re such saps! Hope you’re feeling rested and doing well, we miss your daily musings! Hugs, C

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  2. Cheryl, this is so beautiful. I’m 63, so I could have been one of your neighbors, playing the same games, watching the same shows, feeling life the same way. The memories you evoked are so familiar that they brought tears to my eyes. I remember those days, and they did seem uncomplicated, didn’t they? The tape you made for your mom sounds precious. Thanks for the sentimental journey. Happy Mother’s Day. ❤

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    1. Thank you for the kind and meaningful comment. I used to have this naive belief that my experience growing up was a common one, that everyone lived in the suburbs with two parents, two kids, and a dog. I realize now it was anything but common. We were lucky to live in an era when women’s rights were being championed, doors were opening, and new opportunities became available. I am loving my 60’s, adjusting to retirement, and looking forward to the treasures of this season. Thanks for joining me on this impromptu sentimental journey! Hugs, C

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  3. You really took me back to what I remember as “simpler times” – a typical childhood summer in the burbs. Mine was in Michigan. My parents weren’t so sanguine, but the neighbors were; I remember Dick Kunkel whistling as he listened to a Tiger game on his transistor radio.

    I live two miles from where I grew up. 😊

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    1. Thanks so much for reading and responding! Michigan is beautiful, it must have been a fun place to grow up, and you still live there! I wondered over to your blog and browsed a few posts! Your writing is so honest and open! All my best, 💕C

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  4. Very touching prose neighbor. Thank you for sharing your ❤️.
    Hope your brood made (are still making???) your day as special as you & Nancy would have made your Mom’s day today, if she were here to be the center of your love and affections.

    Wishing God’s motherly love to all of you Johnson’s and Oreglia’s in the neighborhood and beyond on this blessed day.

    CT

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    1. Thank Chris, I had a wonderful Mother’s Day. Just about all of my kids were with me for a lovely meal, Larry’s parents joined us, and the one in Portugal we spoke with on the phone! This was one happy Mama. Hope you showered Terrie with some love and a little pampering! Thanks for the special blessing. Hugs, C

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  5. Well, here I am again…reading your blog, wondering more and more if we truly are indeed sisters by another mother. I, too, will be 62 in a few weeks. And, Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream album was often played in my house as well. I loved it. In fact, I liked it so much, my parents bought me a cassette tape of the album so I could play it in my bedroom on my little cassette recorder. Whipped Cream is my favorite song on the album and, in fact, I have the songs from the album in my iTunes music library. Your post prompted me to play it and it brought back such warm feelings of days long ago, indeed simpler times, without a care in the world because my parents took care of everything for me at that age. I miss my parents too. Mother’s Day is hard. In four years, I will be the age my mother was when her earthly life came to an end. That scares me. She died way too young, and I hope my fate will be different. And although that fabricated barrier between me and death (love that line!) was removed many years ago, as my age approaches the year that happened for my Mom, I am feeling more and more aware of the reality that this “barrier” is not there for me. So I am sad, but I make myself do something productive because if it turns out I am living my last years on earth, I have a lot to do before I leave.
    I live 6.5 miles from the house I grew up in.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Delene, so we were born one day apart, in the same year, in the same general area and we were both weaned on Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass? That’s just crazy. I’m going to say we are sisters of heart. Nancy and I hadn’t listened to that album in years but once I started talking about the good old days on Flamingo Drive and discussing the music Mom and Dad played obsessively on the stereo, we got on youtube, and started playing the old Herb Albert songs. It was so much fun (Nancy and I really know how to live large) and took us back to a much simpler time, magical because of our parents. It sounds like your Mom left this world way too early and that is NOT how you are going to go Delene. I agree with living productively because that’s a powerful philosophy, but not because your time is limited, because you want to imprint the world with the best of you, but within a 6.5 mile radius! Homebodies rules. Hugs and love, C

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      1. Hi Cheryl, it’s so wonderful that you and Nancy have each other and have such a close relationship. I always longed for a sister. I am an only child. When I was 41 I gained a stepfamily due to my Dad’s remarriage after my Mom passed away. They are a wonderful family and I am blessed to have them! But, of course, it’s not the same as a sister with whom you grew up and shared the same parents, same history, same memories. You are blessed!
        My Mom watched Days of Our Lives, The Edge of Night, One Life to Live and the best….Dark Shadows!!! When I came home from school, I watched those with her while she, of course, ironed our pillowcases. 😉 As I got older, she let me iron them (oh, how exciting was that!). I think she paid me 5 cents per pillowcase too!
        I’m so happy to have a new sister of the heart! 💜. Hugs and love, Delene

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  6. Beautiful memories … thanks for sharing them! I can also remember my mom ironing in the kitchen and watching As The World Turns. Also, my dad loved Herb Alpert! Our parents were a unique generation and I suppose we (their children) are too! Happy Mother’s Day to you and wishing you all the best! Leigh

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    1. Thanks Leigh, happy Mother’s Day, hope someone spoiled you properly. You are one of the first who remembers As The World Turns, it was a favorite at the time, and my Mom rarely missed an episode. I’m amazed how wrinkle free clothing changed our lives, there was always a lot of ironing to do, she even ironed our pillowcases! As you say their uniqueness was a gift and they went on to create one of the most productive generations ever! The advances in technology are mind blowing. I can only imagine what life will look like a hundred years from now ~ As the World continues to Turn! Hugs, C

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  7. I turned sixty two in March. Yes, your childhood memories are much like mine, except in WA we didn’t have pools at our homes. My mom would drive my brother and I to the country club and drop us off for the day. We’d hang out at the pools for hours and play golf. Yes, we had the Whipped Cream album too. My dad was a big fan.

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    1. Hi E, we grew up in the same time period, no wonder we have so much in common! Yes, in Washington there was not the need for pools! The weather was much cooler and a local country club would have been so much more fun! Sounds like you and the rest of our generation were highly influenced by Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass. I wonder if that had an effect on the music we love today? I suppose so…hugs, C

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    1. Hi Kathy, I had to go back and read the essay with different eyes. And you’re right, my childhood was surreal. I didn’t know any different until I was older and my naivety met with reality. When I realized every family had a unique culture, a way of being in the world, often adopting a set of circumstances they themselves did not choose. 💕C

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  8. At 67 I have 5 years on you so my memories are slightly different. I also grew up in So Cal and am just about to move out of the house I grew up in. Mom passed in January and Mother’s Day was not as hard for me as one might expect. After all, I had been living with her for most of the last two years and because of that felt I’d saved up enough Mother’s Days with her for the rest of my life. I would venture to say she may have felt the same!

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    1. Sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. And I’m so sorry to hear of your Moms passing, regardless of the relationship, this is a difficult time for you. It’s interesting the memories associated with a structure such as the house you grew up in and came back to as an adult. I bet that was an interesting experience with lots of memories to wrestle with. Well it seems a new door is opening for you and I imagine it will be an exciting chapter. Hugs, C

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