The Renters ~ the comments (OS Archives 2014)

R&R and who wouldn't want to live in the coach house of the Swan House... ;-)
Bravely done my friend. I imagine The Renters to be a most sacredly held childhood memory. One not told of at Thanksgiving and certainly not NOT ( Shoulders Back, stop crying, Now) at any family function. At least until only a few of the honest ones are left at the table, maybe appropriately beginning to unwind and pour something.
Personally, I loved this insight into you. I saw and felt your aloneness. Although my childhood was different, it was inherently the same in so many ways. I also spent a great deal of time in a closet. Drawing and reading. Why? Carving out a space for myself I guess. I was surrounded by siblings but felt alone quite often and as long as you were quiet, no adult bothered you. We had two different worlds then, adult and child. Today they are merged. Thank you for this, it had a dream like quality and I enjoyed the writing as well as how unique it all sounded.
PS I wish this site still had EP and cover still meant something.
I am praying I 'm reading too much into this. Please tell me I am. This beautifully written piece is brittle with secrets, with sentences left unwritten. The sadness wrapped itself around my heart as I read. Picturing your elfen self cowering in a closet for hours and days and weeks is almost unbearable.

An interesting peek into the camp of men 
u had as a girl. It must have shaped your girlish idea
of our gender!
I love how you remember, lightly touching on subjects for a bit then moving on until your head is clear...I hope you come back.
I think Lezlie has some insights here. But being more frivolous than she, it reminded me of tales my father and uncle would tell of their parents' years of running a boarding house. 

A fave of my father's was the night when my grandmother lost count and served up a platter of five pork chops to six hungry men. Now my father in his youth was quite strong and athletic - swimming, shot put and football in local sporting clubs. He was built like Johnny Weissmuller though a bit shorter. Anyway, there was a mad scramble for them and he'd close with "I don't know what the fuss was about. Both of mine were overcooked."
A learning experience not to forget. R.
Lezlie, not cowering, more detached and far away. There are not unsaid abuse bits, specifically, in this part of my story, yet of course, many things better...unwritten, anyway.
I'm with Lezlie, afraid of what you're leaving out
Just got back from a get=together with a couple of friends, one of whom talked about awful things that happened to her children that she'd been unaware of at the time... Adults set up conditions that they don't realize are going to leave their kids dealing with forever.
jmac, you're comment had me looking at their website - aggh, it seems as if it is likely still popular with the Junior League crowd. The Swan House still seems impossibly elegant to me. Thanks for coming by : )

Thank you, Rita, I feel understood with you so often. 
Your comment means a lot to me.

Lezlie, I want to comfort you : ) It wasn't horrifying too often, and maybe there is still a protective cloak I wear, but the trauma was indeed what I did write, mainly. I hadn't had severe addiction in my face before. The sense of invasiveness and my lack of understanding boundaries reverberated for years. What is left unsaid is partly the reality of living with any of these people, of walking into the kitchen and a stranger is there eating my cereal and instead of the sister or brother of the years before, there is a series of strangers now, usually from different cultures. Or with Ralph, a TV dinner is burned in the toaster oven with empty beer cans on the counter right where I need to make breakfast before school.
I checked out. The closet was sanctuary. So was/is art and reading, thinking, imagining. 
The various weird exposures of my childhood helped me become an acute observer and resourceful thinker, I must admit. I have ended up being grateful for those qualities over and over.
Lezlie, what does linger for me, is why, even after conversations with my mother about it. Why, for all the various exposures, but especially this, the renters. and Lynwood Park. 
I felt like Edward Gorey's Beastly Baby, at the time. 
I understand her reasoning more now, but not her choices. Hopefully writing about it will eventually help.
I don't understand her choices either my friend. At all. Empathy but not understanding.
A most interesting cast of characters, these "renters." I was entertained.

Rated Highly
Jose sounds like a keeper with his black velvet paintings, I have a secret crush on them though I've never had one. I remember Schultz's department store had a whole collection of them for sale in the 70s but I never had the money to indulge.

I'm sure the neighbors in your town had a whole scenario for the parade of men and none of it was good. And the part about you in the closet, that breaks my heart. Being raised by a Bohemian myself, I'm starting to think that they just don't know how to raise kids.
I like the image of the elfin child sleeping in the magic shell, though.

it is all Gods plan they say.
mm hmm I say , maybe so.

the life we live, the cards we are dealt.

I fell from middle middle class splendor in a town
my family has been in since 1947.
67 yrs.

this says it well:

I hadn't had severe addiction in my face before. The sense of invasiveness and my lack of understanding boundaries reverberated for years...

boundaries are always shifting. thankfully.
Read like a prologue/outline of a great book.
A string of unanchored, drifting males in a house alone with a young girl? A recipe for disaster, or the makings of a good plot for a horror novel. Skillfully told in the Southern manner. R
James, I do think it shaped my impression of men, but not necessarily in a bad way - I certainly learned that foibles and flaws and imperfections showed up in all the humans I knew, thanks to this parade of men, then women (plus all the sailors at the lake, another great spot for observing, then there was Lynwood Park, and other odd places Mom took me. Lynwood Park was terrifying.). 
I definitely learned some humans can handle their own flaws, while some cannot. Thanks for coming by, James ~

Hi LL, thanks. It was an odd time - and so far I've never met anyone with anything similar to my childhood experiences, both the good ones or the less good ones - but would love to sit down and chat with that person if we do ever meet : ) 
The sad leftovers to me is how easy it still is to disconnect and disappear when I need to. 
Much harder to join in. I always appreciate your comments, LL, nice to see you.

Abra - ha! Yeah, that's what a boarding house is supposed to be like, lots of people around, the warm and bustling house owner, and funny anecdotes to tell your grandkids.
My mother grew up with the 'boarding house' era, my Dad lived in one while courting Mom, I think - I know she was comfortable with the concept, and indeed, if she'd been home running the kitchen and cleaning the rooms all day, being a boarding house matron or whatever they're called, my memories would be vastly different.

I do think Mom was on a personal high in those days - she was recovering from the death of her husband, and as far as she was concerned, most of her kids were grown and gone, she realized she was a good businesswoman, needed money to keep her home, and she felt it was her time to shine. 
She did, too.

Lyle - yeah, it was not so healthy for the little kid I was, but there were other sides to my life then that were extraordinarily lucky and good, and hard to add all the sides of life in one post. 
My best friend next door, for instance, her parents were like miracle parents. Thank goodness for them. And my parents had a little lake cabin, right on the water - that was really home, as far as I was concerned. I still feel more at home by a lake than anywhere else. Thanks for coming by, Lyle : )
Kosh, I do suppose much was left out. 
I did not leave out any full-on assault, though, there wasn't one, as far as I remember....although there was the one time Ralph was just too out of it to know who I was, where he was, or anything else. 
He was a mess. 
He just got too close and grabby with horrible whiskey breath and saying something in a strange voice - then he backed off and lost it emotionally when he realized it was me.
My fears then and leftover traumas now are still about boundaries and people getting too physically close, or about me feeling anxious in a room with too many people, especially ones I don't know. That is partly from renters, partly from other childhood situations.
There was also an earlier, cocktail party era when I was much younger, where parental supervision was also nil, when we lived in Texas. Then, there was a creeping into my bedroom at night kind of scenario, but I don't have any of those type of anxieties when thinking of the renters, which is why I don't think I am suppressing some molestation memory - I already know how terrifying, and different, that anxiety feels. Thanks for coming by, Kosh.

Myriad, it is so true. My mother spent a lot of time in the last two years of her life, talking out my childhood with me. She was very remorseful by then at how unsupervised, unprotected, I was, in so many situations she put me in when I was little. 
For me, it wasn't until that photo showed up that I got more shaken by the memories. I kept looking at that girl in photo when it first arrived, thinking, there is no way I am 11 there. But, I was. 
I had enough good times in childhood that writing about these stuffed, not so great times is just part of pinning it down. 
Maybe some day some descendent will appreciate knowing more than birth and death dates for one female ancestor, anyway : )
I've been to the Swan House. Woods everywhere. Your story brings to mind Pat Conroy's Callenwolde, the Atlanta home tucked in the woods where something monstrous happened in The Prince of Tides. I'm grateful to hear your reassurances that nothing as bad as all that happened. Still, it is creepy. Back in those days, people did not live in absolute fear for our children as we do now. People usually trusted others. Your story telling is evocative and I look forward to more.
PoetTESS, I adore Pat Conroy's writing. 
I read The Water is Wide in my closet during this era : )
When I am homesick, I read Beach Music or South of Broad again.
That he suffered such abuse at the hands of his father and yet writes like an angel, so lyrical, so evocative of certain southern ways, inspires me, lulls me, comforts me.
I knew Callanwolde as an Arts Center, lived in Va Highlands for awhile. I have avoided that one Pat Conroy book - I'd heard it was too intense. You seem to confirm that for me.
I still cannot believe I got my time at the Swan House - that time stored up enough imaginative treasure for lifetimes for a kid - that would never be remotely possible these days....
Just Thinking, when I am working on my novel, I often think of Pat's stories and then I say, what the hell, and I up the intensity another notch. Pat always does. Rain listens to South of Broad over and over again.
Ha! Funny you say that! I thought of Mr. Conroy when I decided to just go ahead and write this. This is as intense as I can relate in writing, for now. I am halfway through a novel based on this time in my life - the main character is more endearing, less odd, than I was. Another reason I wrote this, to breakthrough for the novel. 
It may turn full memoir, maybe, maybe not. 
Framing the story is the hardest, for me, so far in writing books.
I was so glad to see that your mother spent time going over things with you from your childhood. That has to mean a lot in terms of understanding, closure and/or redemption. I tried it with mine, as I have some childhood issues and experiences of my own, and was not successful. 
I could definitely see this post expanded into one hell of a book.
Thanks, Rita, I don't understand, either. 
Some things maybe are not understandable, yet I do feel for this recently widowed woman who needed to learn to make it in the world.

I also always knew I reminded my mother of my father's affairs. The details aren't that clear to me but there was an affair my father had with the neighbor right before, during, after...all of the above...the time when I was born. I've always known about her, Isabel, still have photos of her at neighborhood parties and was too bad I reminded Mom of a bad time, but still. Nice of you to come back : )
Rita, s/b: "...all of the above..???"

Thank you very much, littlewillie, glad you liked this piece. 

Phyllis, in hindsight, I think Jose was a keeper. He was shy and very kind - and I loved those funny black velvet paint-by-number paintings, but only doing them. Once done, ehh.
As for the neighbors, some were very good friends of my mother's and most felt sorry for this sudden widow, but later in life I realized how many worried about me behind her back. It's a little ridiculous how un-protective she was. I literally did feel like Edward Gorey's The Beastly Baby....which I admit at this point makes me smile just a little.
Your comment on Bohemian mothers made me laugh. It may be!! A missing gene. 
I did and do love Mom, though, she was a great human, really, but she sure sucked as a Mom to me. She was much more comfortable and easy with, and felt akin to more, my sister. As Rosi mentions, it was great to have the last two years of her life together, she was ages 84-86. Much was talked about, in a conversational way, after so long, and we grew very close. So close, in fact, she grew chatty about her new husband, married at age 80, and their sex life. I had my hands over my ears! 
"Mom! Stop that now."
"Stop that, now."
; )
Thanks, James : )

Damon, hey! Much appreciated, support like that is great to hear and a little bit hard to accept : ) 
Thank you!

Gerald, thank you for that, it does seem it would be clear that a young girl often alone with strange men in her own home is just not right. Thank you for the high compliment, in my opinion : )

Rosi, it meant everything that we closed her life with a good relationship. And thank you : )
I have a short attention span and began reading thinking I wouldn't finish, but I read straight through. A captivating and sad childhood, my dear, but so full of color.
Fascinating story. Thank you so much. My own young daughter spends hours in a closet because she likes it there. Great post.
Hi Robyn, yes, it was an interesting mix, childhood. From my current view in life, I was pretty lucky for a lot of the gifts of childhood - and as far as the...disconcerting parts, once I write even a bit about them, I feel more at peace with them, eventually. 

Writing has become the closest thing to Dumbledore's wonderful Pensieve I have found.
Hi Maureen : )
Thank you! and I think lots of kids find closets cozy, I know I did.

Writing this post has made me remember that I liked to plot 'what ifs' in the closet, and had several plans for self-defense, plus sometimes one of the fireplace tools hidden under stuffed animals, if I ever did need to stop someone from 'trying to get me' as I always thought of it, whether renters, or robbers or murderers. Atlanta was murder capital of the world, then. I was well aware of that, watching the news at night with Mom. 
The main plan was: the closet was closest to the double-hung bedroom window where I could climb out on the screened porch roof and shinny down the old dogwood tree on the far side and then run through the woods to the neighbors. Or, I could climb up to the higher roof, run across, and jump down over the garage and run to those neighbors.
I read all the Hardy Boys (didn't like Nancy Drew), Encyclopedia Browns, Houdini, Sherlock Holmes. I was kind of into the challenge of outwitting them if I needed to - in my mind, anyway. 
I maybe was not all that grounded in those days....
What is interesting to me, currently, is how I began this with such trepidation and hesitation and leftover fears....and they seem to be no more. today.
as unusual a piece as i have read here 

I do think my childhood might have been a little unusual in some areas - am still waiting to meet those who have similar stories about their past, anyway.
Thanks, Jon : )
What Damon Walters said.
You've begun ~ that's the hard part ~ now don't stop. What's writing if it's not telling each other our story ?
My mom finished her memoir a few years ago, and it did her good, as an accomplishment, but it's specially valuable to us ~ children, grandchildren and friends ~ because it contained things that helped us to understand her more completely, as I do you, a bit, after this, thank you.
Hello Mr. Gamble,
I won't stop. 
I bet your Mom's memoirs are fascinating. I go look back at your Hazel (I think she's Hazel?) now and then , that great shot as young girl. Would love that framed on my wall, even, it's so universal a shot : )

Currently I have half a fictionalized manuscript of this childhood era, got to a section and just didn't know how to frame the story. Tween age book as I have it written so far? Adult, with looking back? The point of it all? Who cares?
Then got over it and am enjoying just the writing of it again, especially since I posted this piece, really.
Writing two other manuscripts, too, one fiction, one not - I got on a roll this year : )

Jon W. thought he'd like to read this piece on his program, what do you think? I am honored and alarmed by any attention, simultaneously.
I also got lost in "real name time, or stay JT..., real name time, or stay JT... 
"Just Thinking..." at bottom of possible book cover just doesn't have much ring or gravitas to it, does it?
Will think more clearly in the morning, no doubt.
Glad you came by, your comments and presence are always appreciated, Kim.
Putting yourself out there is a scary step ~ no two ways around it, especially if the material is personal, or affects others.
Give yourself another name, if it helps. 
Ira Glass, Studs Terkel, Jon W ~ the opportunities abound, and you've lived an interesting life, wound up in Oregon with an interesting family and a lovely garden.
We could all use a bit more of it ~ how you get from a closet to a garden … how did Salinger put it … ? 
I n t a c t .
Only time. & an endless supply of bombsniffingdogs.

Man God help

"We could all use a bit more of it ~ how you get from a closet to a garden … how did Salinger put it … ? 
I n t a c t ."

If I can admit to having any 'of it' at all...then....via the wilderness.
Plus, found good folks on the way. 
Still finding them ; )

Nice to see you, James ~
...and as for the rest, other names and such, thank you, I have and will ponder.
Baby's hungry ( no punctuation implied nor imagined (
I'm sorry, James, I don't understand.
I do appreciate it when you come by, though.
James, your comment is cryptic enough that I keep looking at it...
'Baby' brings to mind Katharine Hepburn and Bringing Up Baby - 
while home alone so much, I also watched many old movies on Ted Turner's old Atlanta movie channel...precursor to Turner Classic Movies.
Thank you, Jon, for asking to read this piece on your radio show and podcast later this month! 
I am honored.

Passionate Justice Radio - Jonathon Wolfman
I am reading this for the second time. I think that THE RENTERS would make an excellent book. See many opportunities here. R and R....agree it would have made an excellent choice for an EP....
Thank you, Ande, that is quite the compliment. I really appreciate that. It was a pretty alienating, isolating experience, how I handled it, anyway. Sometimes I remember it darker than other times, but I was so fortunate my parents were sailors and we spent a lot of time at the lake (there's a whole 'nother pile of odd characters, those lake stories...I loved it there). We also had pretty wonderful neighbors who made a big difference for all the kids on the street, I think. siblings were cool, too, when home : )
and Mom and I did get along well, eventually.

But I still can't figure out what she was thinking.
Well, I am hearing some family was a little concerned in the background, as well. 
Mom, apparently, had let everyone know the renters were fine and she'd not rent a room to anyone inappropriate. 
Funny how a life long gone can still create ripples...
James Hart, I noticed your explanation for the multiple comments somewhere - thanks for the explanation!
It is interesting to me to come re-read these replies I made - 

Lezlie, you are right. 
Much left unsaid, about the one renter, especially, Ralph - the others are all grouped together as 'others' mostly, until Sali. 
Gilles, John, who I felt comfortable with, Jose, who I did not feel comfortable with yet knew he was kind...
there are at least 3 others I cannot remember their names although I remember their faces.

I see how the piece is more genuine than my comments, in hindsight, although I wasn't realizing at the time how well I can minimalize, or that I was, really. 
How I coped with writing it, for the first week, anyway, maybe. 
Ha, ha, no big deal. No full on assault. 
Well, that wasn't necessary.
To answer you better,
Yes, I was scared. and exposed. and vulnerable. and left out like The Beastly Baby from Edward Gorey, as I always felt. 
A pretty severely neglected child. 
It impacted my life immeasurably.
It leaks out sideways, those suppressed things. Dealing with this era is a process. Thank you for your comment that sank in slowly as I've pondered a bit deeper each day since you wrote.
xo Anna
You wrote: 

... feeling anxious in a room with too many people, especially ones I don't know. That is partly from renters, partly from other childhood situations." 

I would like to hear more about your observations what you saw with the behavior of those people. You were an outsider who had lots of time to watch them? 

I admire so much your tendency to mull over ideas, to allow yourself to open your heart and mind. Thank you for coming back to this. It has continued to weigh on my mind.

Hannu, thank you for your comment, I'm just not sure how to answer...I've stood outside of most circles and observed. My nature, I guess, maybe just long habit. I am also sensitive to vibration, which speaks from someone's core.
As for these renters, they were in my home space, taking over the breakfast table, the den, the back porch, their music played rather than the classical mom always had on, the smells of family changed.....I was a small girl, physically, and a curious person. No one was ever home after school on past dark, all day in summers, usually, but me and these strangers.
I hid from, and observed, these people from all over, from safe spots: inside cupboards, through door cracks, from closets....and I observed from across the table at dinners, in the living room after dinner, when Mom was home. I appreciate your comment, made me think a bit. Thanks for coming by, Hannu.

Lezlie, thank you for coming back. 
I really prefer to learn and evolve in whatever painful way goes forward, you know? Why wallow unevolved forever in whatever stew life has made for us....or we've made for ourselves...
not that wallowing doesn't have its place ; )
I just prefer these ghosts to rest, and stop being in my mind when I wake up. Writing this piece helped immensely. The stream of consciousness version I have here certainly needs editing down, though...
Thank you again, Lezlie, your comment wouldn't let me stay in my bubble of 'not so bad.'
what a powerful piece of writing. i'm not sure what to say that hasn't been said already and by someone more articulate than i am. i'm glad you clarified that there aren't hideous untold bits because this felt so ominous to me. but, as others have said, the images of you in the closet were chilling for me. i can relate to this in a trivial way. my family was affluent and we always had live in housekeepers and i never really got used to or stopped resenting it even though the bio "family" was completely and utterly fucked.
Hi Theodora - nice of you to come over and read....
this is a work in progress, I think, both the written piece as well as the processing part. It just had to get written and be outside of myself, for the first time.....
and no, there was not full-on assault, but as I finally wrote to Lezlie in last comment, there didn't need to be. It was a very impactful time that changed me irrevocably. 
It is my nature to minimize tough stuff, I guess, I didn't want this to be uneasy for anyone. I just needed to write it out. 
I did not want to deal with the reality of leftover trauma, certainly, when I first wrote this...
As for your similarity, while we didn't have housekeepers or anything, most of our neighbors did and Mom would 'borrow' the neighbor's maid. 
Maid, renter, any 'stranger.' 
For a sensitive child, it is completely violating feeling if you feel no connection or don't want them there. 
Sorry your family was fucked, as you say.
I am so sorry I missed this. I want to hear you read it - am going ot see what I can do about that. This was so beautiful and sad and unreal but real. Thank you for sharing this.
I could read this over and over.
A little too close to home for me, a little too well told. Sometimes "checking out" is the best way to survive, I think. Funny how it can all come rushing back in years later, isn't it? I hope this finally puts it to rest for you.
Just this morning realizing, thanks to PoetTess's latest post, that this era of the renters and the bussing era coincided in my life....I was scared all the time, some days....
But I made my first black friend in high school thanks to bussing - just wish the first couple years of bussing hadn't been so.....
and frightening.

**We all had the sense the dirty work of integration had been left to us - the children.**

We all knew the adults weren't going to suddenly live and work side by side seamlessly - 
why did they think we, the kids, would?

White kids posturing, black kids posturing. 
Most of the black kids much more adept at the thick skin of letting things not get to you, having had to deal with that for so long, so much more savvy.... white face was familiar, either, as so many friends from elementary school were now ensconced in a white private middle school....
Another post, 
Fall 1972.
The bussing began.
Also when Ralph moved in.
What a year.
Fall 1973, Ralph moved out, my oldest brother showed up again, as written about in 'the surprise update' mentioned at bottom of post.

I'm getting a personal life timeline of those years! 
The first time I've been able to sort out dates and events a little properly..

I am also sorting out how I transformed, internally, during this time, thanks to 5 different closets in our house.

Another chapter to write and pin down...
As other's have said, this is a powerfully and deftly written piece, delicate and yielding like a willow. A piece that beckons to be read more than once. It has haunting and lingering and the shimmer of memory. I will come back again to this. Thank you for letting me know about it. Peace. r&r's as if this story (or series of stories) were woven in a loom. it's very complex and textural.

you are a fascinating woman, o ye mad bageler, photog and colorific batik artist!
Thank you Delia, thank you, Foolish Monkey - this piece feels like a first draft of a piece, but writing it is how I have (mostly) stopped waking up in the middle of the night with milliseconds of night terrors in my mind until I see where I am.
I am working on how to edit this, re-write another somehow, the next chapter....on the internal/external transformations that occurred during these years.
So far, I seem unable to dwell long on the actual history of this time, I really struggle with *when* a lot from my childhood: was I eight, was I ten, was I twelve? when so-and-so moved in? who else lived at home then?? anyone?
and I tend to spend more time working on the somewhat fictionalized story for kids, based on this house, this street, this era....

I did re-read this, this morning.......
I would love to have stopped with the Swan House ; )

Thanks again for coming by ~
Thank you also, Alysa, Jon, l'Heure!!
Sorry I missed you earlier.

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