My Family Home in Cockrell Hill, Texas
In a little valley in Cockrell Hill is a creek. It’s looped by a street. My sense of distance is forever influenced by knowing that three trips around this road is about a mile. The creek periodically floods to the street. Even more rare is an epic flood that, in theory, will rise to everyone’s doorsteps. Much of my childhood was spent in that creek. I explored its lengths alone, with dog, or friends. The banks were modified with shovels. Water was dammed with stones. Crayfish were forever harassed. Pond-skippers scattered as trees were felled to make bridges. Fish were caught with hooks baited with ham. Mud balls (sometimes with rocks) were flung at friends. Impetigo was caught swimming in the summer. I knew that creek like the back of my hand.
Looking at the creek now, it seems so small. Since I grew up, no other children continued the “landscaping” and now the creek is overgrown with saplings and weeds. Its shape has changed in a few places too. Some deep parts are now shallow, a few bends have become sharper as others have softened. The perception of distance has lessened too. The ends of the creek used to be a scary frontier. Now they seem so close. What felt like an epic bike journey around the road is now a modest stroll.
There used to be a shed in the woods where a friend and I found a few naughty magazines. That shed and its magazines are no longer there. Not that I was looking for them.
This is the neighborhood I spent most of my childhood in. Despite how modest it is by current standards, it gave me a taste for the outdoors and solitary adventure.
The road around the creek.
One of a few horses at the far side of the neighborhood.
Father leaning on hay bale and looking at horse.
The clearing cut through the scraggly woods to accommodate a natural gas pipeline. The pipe cuts through the neighborhood on the west side, crosses the creek and up the hill into the woods again. It’s marked with warning signs along the way.
Investigating the woods in search of a mushroom.
Tree infested with mistletoe.
There was no mushroom to be found, but circling hawks had freaked out this squirrel.
A curious dog.
A large potbellied pig breaks free.
Tree branch with pods.
Our neighbor’s ride.
The remains of wisteria vines I cut off the power and phone lines leading to the house.
Vines were cut off the hoop and a new, patriotic, net was installed. Court is now in session. All rise for b-ball action!
The remaining vines that swallow the mulberry tree by my bedroom window.
Cow skull and NJ plate in the vines.
My father’s slightly masculine looking black truck.
Pine cones on an old planted Christmas tree.
Muffler man in front of an oak tree I planted as an acorn.
The seating area near the bird feeders.
Looking up into the oak tree.
Despite all his rage, he’s still just a gnome in a cage.
Trough of goldfish, pink flamingo.
Horse shoe on fence.
The phone outside the front door, non working.
The well maintained woodwork of the eaves, now functioning as the doorway to an attic rat hotel.
The house is old, built in the 40s. It’s also poorly maintained. For much of childhood, there was the embarrassment of living in a home with lots of ceilings missing due to water damage. Two notable ceiling stories: 1) The ceiling in the kitchen became engorged with water like a balloon. Eventually, it popped in a wet crumbly mess. 2) My mother was in the restroom and looked up to the rafters to see a raccoon staring down at her from the attic.
The house is built on a mild hill. The downward force of earth has slowly pushed the foundation out of whack. Water has intermittently flooded the basement. The foundation problem is dire, but seemingly unfixable. In the past few years, the Austin stone has started separating from the frame and massive cracks have appeared outside and in. The door frames are off, the floor is rippling like wooden waves. At some point in the near future, the whole place is going to collapse. It will be epic.
My parents are not maintainers. I understand this now: cars, homes, and possessions are ran into the ground. My only form of rebellion is to take care of my possessions. Neither way is better, just different.
The inside of the family home is packed: folk art, trinkets, books, papers, vases, jars, plants and cat hair. Trying to move around almost guarantees knocking something over. Every horizontal surface is totally covered in crap. Tables, desks, floor? They are there, somewhere.
Despite three walls of counter space in the kitchen, there isn’t an inch free. Trying to microwave a cup of water involves moving spices and miscellany away from the door so it can open. Cutting vegetables is done by placing the cutting board on the stovetop. Drying dishes are knocked off the counter by cats commuting to the kitchen window. All the cabinets are packed with jars and things that are never used but are somehow not worth getting rid off. Almost all of the drawers in the kitchen have over time been converted to junk drawers.
On returning visits, the house seems to get more clutter. It’s like I’m walking into an ever clogging artery.
Lantern and picture window.
Wooden deer of the dining room.
The cactus garden blocking the back door.
Angel and sad dog.
Solving a puzzle.
The stockings were stuffed with coins, candy, rose pedals, and dirt.
Wall sized abstract painting in the living room.
Large nude paintings behind the TV. Oddly enough, these are paintings of the parents of an ex-girlfriend from my college years.
Father makes a move in Settlers of Catan.
Plants in my sister’s old room.
Crown of thorns, sitting frog, and raku vase with stick on my old bedroom windowsill.
China cabinet with an insane amount of weird dolls and toys. My favorites are the talking Pee Wee and Ernest.
My bedroom has been turned into a little black velvet museum. Here’s Bruce Lee.
Bouncy salt shaker lady and toothbrush near the kitchen window.
The stuff above the refrigerator.
Stay-puff Marshmallow Man guards the kitchen from above.
The wall of mirrors in the bathroom.
Humorous sign above the toilet.
Stuff on the bedroom wall.
A portrait of my mother and I.
Another highlight of being home has been the food. My mother is an excellent cook. Between us, we’ve made some great fare: a full Thanksgiving style feast, chinese steamed buns and green beans, omelets, biscuits, apple crisp, apple bread, chicken soup, fish, yellow curry turkey salad, Thai style boiled chicken, and more. I’m well on my way to gaining my weight back.
J. and I made Thai boiled chicken with ginger sauce and vinegar cucumbers. Awesome.
Apple crisp for my birthday.
Mom-made, whole wheat biscuits.
Christmas dinner in the Thanksgiving style.
When I was a child, the basement wasn’t a scary place. There was an office and a den with TV down there. I used to rollerblade on the smooth, spacious floor. But it’s a different story now. The area is a festering, dark, dank mess of mildewing garbage. It’s creepy. In theory, stuff it brought to the basement for storage. But it’s really more a temporary place for an object to live out its declining years before falling apart from neglect. Nothing brought down there is ever used again before eventually being hauled to the dumpster.
The gate to the basement.
Bowling pins outside the basement.
Looking out a basement window.
The secure file storage and mildewing facility.
The scary floor by the wet dry vac.
It was scary to stumble across this scene in an abandoned corner of the basement. What is this? Some kind of interrogation room?
Wheelbarrow full of crumbling antique cameras. What a waste.
The really creepy area is near the unused stairs. The whole area is full of spider webs. I’ve never seen anything like it. The room beyond is entirely empty. It used to have moldy piles of cat poop all over the floor. During rains it floods.
The ghost defense or interrogation irons kept at the bottom of the stairs.
Looking up the haunted staircase.
This New Year’s Eve was a mellow one between two friends and I. Our tradition involves destroying things from the basement with bowling pins. As you can imagine, a thrown pin is hardy enough to bash through furniture and obsolete electronics. Once the bullets stopped falling from being shot into the air from around the neighborhood, we got to destruction.
Our target this year was an old HP laser printer and keyboard set on an aging metal chair.
B. readies two pins.
Me having sent a pin flying towards target.
Contact! Boom, smash, shatter!