It was snowing the day my parents forced me to leave everything I knew and loved. It was a process that had actually begun many months before. In the midst of Pearlie's illness and recovery it became more pressing than ever before that my grandmother needed to move in with us. Our house on the Ponderosa just wouldn't accommodate her needs. It had lots of stairs and she would need a more accessible bathroom. That makes sense to me now--it didn't necessarily feel right then. It started with Daddy picking up those free magazines in restaurants with house listings in them. Then we began taking Sunday drives around the countryside. I remember Mama and Daddy sitting on the front porch one warm evening and telling me that we were moving. I would have to change schools. We were to begin looking at homes in Bedford--a middle ground for my parents who were by that time both commuting to work--Mama to Lynchburg and Daddy to Roanoke. We would look for a house for Pearlie to live in with us. I ran crying to my room. I don't think I spoke to them for days.
The summer before starting 6th grade, I wrote a letter to Whitney outlining what was to come. I wrote her a letter and gave it to her one afternoon at Pearlie's house because I couldn't bear to tell her face to face. She read it and we cried together in the late afternoon sunlight streaming in through Pearlie's bathroom window. I'm pretty sure she didn't speak to my parents for days either.
Looking at houses was kind of fun. After all, I'd never done that before and the prospect of a new room was fascinating. I remember one ranch home with a full basement and we talked about me having a room downstairs. That sounded fun. One old house has a basement room filled with every National Geographic ever printed--no exaggeration. Finally my parents chose the house on Woodcreek. It would need some work to fit our family but it seemed to have good potential. And let's not forget my Daddy can build anything. And so, on a blustery winter day, Whitney and her parents came and helped us take loads of boxes and furniture to our new house.
The silver lining was that since the house needed renovations before we could all move in, Mama and I would live with Pearlie and Daddy would live in the Bedford house until I finished sixth grade at Hurt Elementary. I know how fortunate I was to not be moved in the middle of the school year. We would all be moving on to middle school the next year. The year marched on. I had my first boyfriend who I feel like I've known literally my whole life. In those days a boyfriend in sixth grade meant buying each other Christmas presents and holding hands at the skating rink. I got braces which I endured for several years. Instead of spending every weekend at Whitney's though, I had to go spend the weekends at the Bedford house instead. We lost Mama's beloved cat, Pete. He went out in a snowstorm and got lost, we saw him a few times after that but we could never catch him.
The house transformed in those months, and even more so in the years since. Daddy took the downstairs master bathroom and created two bathrooms--a handicap one for Pearlie. He extended the tiny (I mean really tiny) bedroom upstairs out into the attic and created a master bedroom for them. My bedroom had pink and blue striped wallpaper with baby jungle animals on the border. We talked about painting it but then I started putting posters all over the wall so that wallpaper stayed up until I got married and moved to Richmond. I put glow in the dark stars all over the ceiling and used my two attic spaces to create extra playrooms when the weather wasn't too hot or too cold.
After my sixth grade graduation we moved out of Pearlie's little gray house on Pocket Road and it sold to some friends of ours-- the family of the first friend I ever made in Kindergarten. It was really a blessing to them and so I think that eased my sadness. For a time I kept in touch with those beloved childhood friends. We used to write letters and have sleepovers. But as time progressed and we entered into middle school, new friendships flourished. My friendship with Whitney never faltered. Although our time was more limited we still spent weekends and vacations together. She also helped to keep me tied to those old friends. I even went their Senior Prom as a date for that first boyfriend.
Woodcreek Road became another community all together. It was different in the sense that we lived in a neighborhood with houses lined up on either side of the road. And I could ride my bike all around and we could go for walks in the evenings--there was traffic but typically quiet. Just as it had been in Hurt, we grew to know and love our neighbors. Kind and generous people who were there for all of my milestones--from high school graduation, to Mama and Daddy's accident, to my wedding, and my baby shower. As I grew older I came to understand how special it was that my circle of community had grown. Now I had special people in two towns.
Nevertheless, I was convinced that when I grew up I would return to hurt and buy back our white house up on the Ponderosa--some of my fondest memories indeed.