It is odd searching for a home in a city devastated by flood waters. Odd, because while I am assessing location, price and square footage, everywhere around me, people are carting their soggy, moldy possessions to the curb. Many are now homeless. While CNN did broadcast a one-hour special on the Nashville floods, nothing reported comes close to the actual reality. On one street, a house for sale sits slightly above those on either side of it, which are gutted and windowless with mattresses and splintered boards piled high outside.
I drive to the next address, passing a lovely park where just weeks ago, kids were playing baseball and flying kites. Today those lush, green acres are awash in debris. All week, trucks have been dumping appliances, stoves, A/C units, warped bookshelves, stain-soaked draperies and bed frames. Standing lamps and chairs stick out of these gargantuan piles, like broken arms and legs. The newscasters sound amazed when they report, “There’s been no looting.” But the truth is, there is nothing salvageable to steal. For a home buyer, the good news is that prices are going down. At one showing, I was quoted one price at the front door, but by the time I left, the realtor whispered that the owner would, “take another 20% off.” But it really isn’t about the price. It’s about making that house a home; the kind my grandmother made for me.
Granny purchased her first home in 1956. “It cost a fortune,” she often said. “26 thousand dollars!” When I took my own children back to see that “wonderful” place where I grew up, I didn’t even recognize it. Her tiny ranch with the bright green trim was a ruin of pock-marked plaster and peeling paint. The palm tree-dotted, well-manicured subdivision where it used to stand and where I learned how to both jump rope and drive, was a slum. Chained up dogs barked from the alleys where I used to roller skate. Granny’s garden, once an Eden of flourishing vegetables and zinnias, was now a gnarl of burnt weeds and old car parts. Even the mailbox hung at half-mast, with the “4412” missing. I well remember the day we painted it and planted sunflowers underneath.
Time has erased Granny’s home like the floods have obliterated those of thousands in Nashville. All that ever really remains with us though is the memories that were made inside. (Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” a memoir of the years her Grandmother lived with her when she had Alzheimer’s. http://www.helen-hudson.com).