“O” is for Oregon Street

This post continues a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge.  This post takes us back to the time when I was still living at home.

My mother bought the house at 5397 Oregon in 1959 for $8,000. It was the first house we owned. Before that we lived in houses owned by the church my father pastored or, after my parents divorced,  in a rented flat on Calvert.   I was 13 and in the 8th grade when we moved in and a 21 years old senior in college when we moved to the flat on Fairfield.  Nine years was the longest I lived in any house when I was at home.

Sitting on the porch with my mother. 1962.

Photographs from the downstairs, various years.

My bedroom.
The bathroom.

There are no photographs of the upstairs.  There was a hall, three bedrooms and the only bathroom in the house. My room looked out on the backyard.   The other two bedrooms looked out the front of the house. The bathroom was right across from my room and the stairs were right next to it. The hall ended in a door that went out on the upper back porch.  These two drawings are of my bedroom, looking out on the hall and the stairs and the bathroom. They are ballpoint pen and then I sprayed them with perfume. I had to come up with an experimental project for this advanced drawing class and that is what I came up with. I ruined many drawings with that perfume.

Some memories from those years:

Discovering world wide revolution as I started high school. Getting magazines from Cuba, China and Mexico.  Listening to radio Habana on the short wave band of our radio. Spending hours in my room reading, clipping photos and articles, looking at maps, filling in maps.

The Christmas we got several of Miriam Mekeba’s records and they became the sound track for that Christmas.

The neighbor’s house being so close that in the summer I could hear them talking through my open bedroom window.

The summer my cousins came to visit from Athens Tennessee and slept in my sister’s room while she moved in with me. The visit was half over when we discovered they had not set up the cot and were crowding into one twin bed.  We set it up for them.

My cousin, Greta, cutting my hair so that I could wear an afro during this same 1967 visit.

Almost getting to Cuba and Mexico, but not quite.  Did make it to Santa Barbara, CA.

Coming down with the flu one fall day while playing chess with my uncle Henry and being sicker then I remembered being since having pneumonia.

Dried peppers hanging on the kitchen door. Tomato wine/vinegar brewing in a big vat in the kitchen. My mother’s garden under the mulberry tree where she grew green beans. The moldy mulberries under the tree later in the year.

Building an igloo in the backyard one winter.

Pearl walking around the living room on the furniture without touching the floor when my mother wasn’t home.

Nikki Giovanni staying at our house during the 1967 Black Arts Conference.

From my journal:

12/22/67  the winds blowing dry seed on the tree of heaven outside.

1/4/1967 gray, rustle, wind, snow makes more gray. Creaks and roar, grey, grey sky.Everything is quiet. the wind sounds cold. Even the drip of the faucet is cold. Creaks and breath of wind.snow like cover of cold. pale blue summer sky over grey cold.

2/6/1968   i don’t know what’s wrong. every so often i sink into one of these things. deep down loneliness.  loneliness fills you empty.  Apart in a separateness or a separateness is in me. it’s felt inside my stomach. a lump of muscus won’t digest. sits inside me. floats inside my emptiness… apartness is inside me – is me. me is separate. apart. alone. it’s dark. cold/hot. Still.  i stand in a vacant field, large clear area of land off Warren Avenue.  The moon is out. i stand in center and watch the moon.

4/4/2968  it’s beautiful weather out. warm. windy. you should be in the country.  Tonight i a. type 2 stories, one for Billy Thomas, b. do drawing, guess i’d best do the drawing first, correct – part of armor, maybe college type thing. yeah.  that’ll be interesting. go to museum at 4 or 4:30. Eat when? ยฟQuien sabe? i have the terrible feeling none of this is going to come out.

4/21/1968  tell him i cried. sat on porch wanting him to come back. look out the window wanting him to take me with him. i didn’t just not want to go home, i wanted to go with him.

“When you are singing
Daily alone
a bird comes
and joins you”

22 thoughts on ““O” is for Oregon Street

  1. Your worldview was so much larger than mine when you started high school. At that time Harrisburg seemed like the “big city” to me–and I never thought very deeply about issues beyond my community. I sure have grown over the years.

    I love the way you regularly change the header on this blog to match the post.

    1. Most high school students didn’t. One reason for my sense of isolation and loneliness I suppose. I think the heating up of the Civil Rights movement both in Detroit and in the country and the involvement of my family and their friends was a big influence. It got me interested and made me feel a part of other movements around the world as people in Africa, Asia and Latin America also began to fight for and achieve independence.

      I love being able to match the header to the subject! And I like being able to make it bigger to include more of the photo. I just wish I could make it stay with the post after I moved on to another post.

  2. Once again, you continue to amaze. I’m jealous of your artistic abilities (whether you ruined many sketches with hairspray or not). I have met Nikki Giovanni in person. She lived for quite a while in Cincinnati. She came and spoke at the elementary school where I was assistant principal for a short time. She also played a big role in the Virginia Tech shootings a few years ago. She had recognized that the shooter had problems. If I recall correctly, she would not allow him to come to class but tutored him individually. I also admire the strength of your mother. Since she was a pastor’s wife, divorce could not have been easy.

    1. Our church took a bus down to hear Nikki Giovanni read her poems in the basement of her church about 1966 or so. I remember wondering who was this Italian poet we were going to hear. She was born in Tennessee and grew up in Cincinnati.

      I think that the way the relationship fell apart was harder for my mother than the actual divorce. Once she was through with anything, she was through.

  3. I always enjoy your posts about the places you have lived – the pictures, descriptions and memories give a feel for the time and place.

  4. Your posts always make my day as I eagerly await them. Thank you for sharing your amazing life with us. You are a phenomemal storyteller.
    And have Nikki Giovanni as a houseguest in 1967 during the Black Arts Conference… totally cool I just imagine the long conversation one could have with such an amazing poet.
    Equally cool is having a cousin cut your hair so that you could “rock a fro” ๐Ÿ™‚ What was your family reaction to it?

    1. We didn’t even have one amazing conversation ๐Ÿ˜‰ My family was ok with my hair. I was afraid my paternal grandmother might say something negative about it but she didn’t. It was only a matter of time before everybody in the family that could get an afro, did get one.

  5. That separate feeling is something I remember and know well…I was a teenager when the family purchase our first home, we were renters up to that point…I am enjoying this series.

  6. Ah Kristin, you have always had that tender heart. Those journal posts from 1968 are so poignant and poetic and timeless. I remember feeling that way, but never expressing it as surely as you did at such a young age.

  7. What great memories you have and so diverse. Love the sketches too…you are really bringing these places to life. Miriam Makeba was one of our favourites too.

  8. Thanks for the musical interlude. Actually put the TV on mute to listen to Makeba.
    Gonna put this on my FB to set the right mood for the weekend.

      1. When I think of Myriam, Malaika comes to mind immediately,
        but of course, she did so many other song. It did cheer one of my friend this morning…

  9. I love reading your blogs. You descriptions are so vivid. I feel like I’m there. Thank you for sharing such wonderful memories.

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