“They’re gone. They are all gone.”
When my family moved from San Antonio to Conway, SC in 1998 I went ahead of Jenni and the boys by a couple months to begin my new job. I did some house hunting before Jenni’s first visit to help narrow the search. Through our agent in San Antonio I was assigned a realtor considered to be one of the best in the Conway area. Of course, back then you didn’t search for a home on the internet; you searched in a car, through the newspaper, and through monthly sales catalogs of homes being offered.
The first day of house hunting was spent driving around looking at the homes the realtor selected for me to see (and not finding any suitable.) I remember her passing over a bridge and I glanced at a sign marking the “100 Year Flood Plain.” When I commented on that, the realtor said “Oh, it never floods here.” Not satisfied with the homes she was showing me, I approached her the next day with a picture of a beautiful home I had found in a sales catalog. It was labeled as “A Conway Gem” and was gorgeous. When I showed it to the realtor, she said “That house is not in Conway. I know every home for sale in Conway.” After another fruitless day of looking at homes, I drove around the neighborhoods myself and actually found the home from the catalog photo. It was in Conway. Jenni and I contacted our San Antonio realtor and explained the situation, asking for a new realtor which she quickly provided.
With the new realtor, I saw the home I wanted to see and loved it. When Jenni flew in that weekend, we lined up that house and a couple more to view, but we were in total agreement on the “Conway Gem.” It proved to be a wonderful home and neighborhood in which to raise our boys.
In a blog a couple weeks ago, I shared a memory of watching Governor Jim Hodges maneuvering in a boat on the flooded street in front of that home in 1999, a year after moving into it. The water reached the second or third step of our front porch after Hurricane Floyd that year, but we had another 3-4 steps to spare and did not suffer any flood damage in the house. During that time, we learned that the flood plain crossed through a corner of our lot but not where the house sat; our main floor elevation was 14ft above flood stage. Over the next year, FEMA did buy out and demolish a couple homes across the street from us which had sustained significant damage; this gave our boys a terrific field in which to play baseball and other games with their friends. We continued to live in that home until 2009, selling it in 2010, and never had another flood quite as bad.
In the years after we sold it there were other storms and threats to it. Finally, in 2018, a storm brought enough rain and backwater from the nearby swamp to force at least a foot of water into the house. Jenni happened to be in the area four months afterwards and could still see a water mark across the front door.
Over the years, I had put thoughts of the old house out of my mind. Until last week. Driving our van Wanda through the Low Country, we were visiting many of the old towns we used to frequent when we lived down in that area. We both wanted to drive by the old neighborhood to see it again. As we drove the street that passes through, and over, Crabtree Swamp I began to feel a pit in my stomach. As we saw the first houses after the swamp we noticed a couple had been elevated by jacking up their foundations. But we were not prepared for the gut punch we felt when we turned onto our old street.
“They’re all gone,” is all we could say as Wanda idled in the middle of the street. Our old home was gone. The beautiful yard and flowering trees were gone. Only a couple oak trees remained. The same was true for our neighbors to the right, across the street, and down two other streets as well.
We just sat there, in the middle of a street hardly anyone would need to travel. We stared at the empty lot, trying to visualize where the sidewalk ran, where the steps began, and where the white picket fence once stood. In our silence, I had a mental picture of the boys playing in the yard, rolling in the leaves we had raked or building snowmen after an unexpected snow. I saw them learning to drive the old Snapper riding lawnmower we had borrowed from Jenni’s mother. In that yard they had once hunted Easter eggs, smashed piñatas during birthday parties, and chased each other with hockey sticks. This had been the home where a copper head snake had fallen from the storm door onto Jenni’s head, a home where our cat Indy learned to pass from one upstairs bedroom closet to another on the other side of the house by passing through the attic crawl space, the place where you had to keep the yard gate and backdoor closed if you didn’t want Buddy, the neighbor’s lovable poodle, to come running up the stairs and greet the boys while they brushed their teeth in the morning.
I texted a photo of the empty lots to our former neighbor. She agreed it was sad but she said what hurt most was knowing she had buried three pets in that yard. And that got me thinking about two of my own that had been laid to rest beneath some azaleas in the backyard.
Just the day before, we had visited an older relative who had just moved from independent living to assisted living and in this moment parked in front of where our home once stood we understood some of the pain and loss she was experiencing. I remarked that there were so many memories associated with that house, the neighbors, and community; yet, we had moved on and made even more wonderful memories in our new home. And they continue today, for us, our sons, and now their families.
Yes, the house is gone. They are all gone.
But, thankfully, the memories remain.
I loved this read. It is so true. I drive through their every couple of weeks and it pulls at me too. I loved that neighborhood & all the neighbors there. Lots of great memories. You & Jenni were so kind to let me put furniture in your living room after Hurricane Floyd. What a time! If y’all are ever back this way, please let me know. I’d love to see y’all.