On the Six-Hour Drive Back Home From His Parents’
Jack Gets In a Mood
We grew up next door—if you can call it that, out in the country—to the Lighthouse restaurant.
Now, I was born… uh, or spent my childhood, my early childhood, in… a little house… a very small house that my father and grandfather built.
[Whistling noises of tires on asphalt.]
Around the time my sister was born we moved into a… slightly larger house next—next to that house.
And then we moved around a little… and… came back and lived across the street from those two houses, which had long been sold, in what used to be my great-grandmother’s house, which was built by my great-grandfather. Just a little… a very comfortable, cozy cabin of sorts. So those are the three houses. Remember that. The house I grew up in… the bigger, nicer house we moved into after my sister was born, or around the time my sister was born… [road bump]… and then the—this guy’s gonna just ride in my blind spot, I guess. He’s got nowhere else better to be. What are you doin’? Would you either pass me or… uhhhhhh! [Pause.] And what was the other house? Oh yeah, my great-grandmother’s house, which is a… little… uhhhhhh… you know, a square cabin with a tin roof… and then we added some—added a little bit onto it when we moved in there.
That eventually sold too. My mom planted pine trees, just little twigs, probably twenty-five years ago, and when we went by the restaurant, the Lighthouse, my sister and I, we also drove by to look at the old home places, and Mom’s pine trees have… they’re, we guess, about thirty feet tall now. They’re huge. And they were little sticks when she put them in the ground all those years ago, and took care of ‘em and made sure they didn’t—nothin’ bad happened to ‘em. And she takes great pride in those pine trees, although we sold the land, and…
But Mom says, you know… Mom’s proud of those pine trees, but she says somebody’ll probably chop ‘em down to build something. People love to chop things down!
Uh, ehhhh, to that point… well… so…
First of all, the house where I grew up as a child… isn’t there anymore! At all. It’s just gone. There’s a… a hill of dirt. Where it used to be. A tiny bump. A bump. Of dirt. Where my house… was. That’s somethin’ that’ll really… uhh… that’ll really get ya. So, yeah. The house where I grew up is now a… [lip smack] mound of dirt. And nothing left.
My childhood friend, who beat me up in third grade, bought our other house, the bigger house, nicer house, and it’s his office now. In fact, when I was idly looking—we were trying to think of where to eat on Sunday night. My sister and her family had gone home, back to Atlanta. My m-mom and I were trying to figure out where we should go eat on a Sunday night, and I idly—even though I knew the Lighthouse was closed on Sundays… I had been looking at other restaurants on, uh… the internet, and… I’ve never looked up the Lighthouse on the internet. So I looked at it and saw all the—whatever—Yelp reviews or other sorts of… information. And I saw that Google gives you a little map. And… my second childhood home is on the map, not as my childhood home, obviously… but it’s got a little… [laughter] square label, and it says, “Manfred Sellers… Oil Services.”
But, uh, my second childhood home is now on Google maps, I guess, as “Manfred Sellers Oil Services.” [Laughter.] I don’t know—I said, “What is Manfred—what is that?” And Mom said, “I don’t know. I don’t know what he does.”
Very pious young man, Manfred Sellers. Still a pious middle-aged man, I would imagine. Who’s… you know, like all of us, had a few unhappy moments. Nothing dramatic. Just the usual unhappiness.
So that’s my second childhood home. Manfred Sellers Oil Services.
As for my—ohhhhhhhh. My sister warned me. She said, “Oh, I gotta… this isn’t good. You’re not gonna like this. Okay, uh, our house…” And by “our house,” the one she remembers the most would be my great-grandmother’s house. So she calls it “our house,” but I refer to that place as “Ma Madeline’s house,” because she was my great-grandmother who lived there first. My sister never knew her. She died long before my sister was born. But I remember her very well.
So I call it Ma Madeline’s house.
But my sister warned me that it was not… it looked terrible, and it did. Oh! It looked horrible. The—the pine trees in the field notwithstanding. My mom did a great job on those, and no… m-manner of, uh… no manner of neglect could—as Joyce Kilmer [laughter] would tell you if he were here [sniff]—uh, all the abject misery surrounding it could not… diminish… the majesty of these pine trees that my mom planted yea those many years ago.
Time has not—time! Time and human depravity [short laugh; coughing] have not been so kind to my great-grandmother’s house, which is covered in tarpaper. I think that’s tarpaper. When I looked at it, I thought, “That’s tarpaper.” Then it occurred to me: Do I really know what tarpaper is, or have I just been calling this substance “tarpaper” all these years?
Anyway, that place is a dump. And the little spot of land known as—on no map have I found this, but my grandfather said it used to be called “Pleasant Progress,” that area. Not so pleasant anymore. And not much progress, either. Ah, I just thought of that witty remark right now. A witty remark that is almost useless, because nobody’s ever heard of Pleasant Progress, except for my grandfather, long deceased.
We visited the graveyard. Saw my grandparents’ graves… uh, my paternal grandparents’ graves. And… speaking of which, I also helped Mom try to sell some cemetery plots on [laughter] Craig’s List. That was one of our activities.
Most of our activities are graveyard related.
Jack Pendarvis has written five books. He won two Emmys for his work on the TV show Adventure Time. During a period of light employment, he spoke into a digital recorder whenever the mood struck him and transcribed the results, accumulating the two thousand pages from which this column has been extracted.