Home Is Not Where the Heart Is
An Ode to Childhood, Marston Road, and the Betton Hills Gang
Whoever said “home is where the heart is” didn’t live on Marston Road in Tallahassee, Florida circa 1972–1992. I haven’t lived in Florida, much less Marston Road since the 90s, but my home most assuredly is and always will be on that street. NO ONE will know that stretch, from Armistead Road (where Marston dead-ends) up the small hill where the Whites lived, better than myself and the other kids who lived in the immediate area.
Our childhood overlapped with the dying era of kids being allowed to play outside all day long into the early evening. My sister and I were fortunate to have lived on Marston Road with at least a dozen other kids within a few houses of us. We spent SO much time together that we eventually dubbed ourselves the Betton Hills Gang complete with theme song, “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant!
Ted Bundy weighed in the back of our minds, but mostly we lived a simple, treasured existence. It was idyllic, but not because it lacked angst. It was idyllic in its honesty and imperfections. What is truer in life than conflict, squabbling, camaraderie, occasional cruelty, appreciation of nature, shared experiences?
Our age range was pretty tight and dominated by girls. Mostly girls with strong personalities, no less! We were as likely to cross-stitch, tumble, and watch Days of Our Lives as we were to love Star Wars, swim like fish, and venture all over the neighborhood with confidence.
Our parents had distinct personalities even if they were a bit peripheral in some ways. This was a kid-centric stretch of time and geography. But those parents were there with a kind word or happily letting us swim in their pool or making sure we had a snack.
They tolerated all those years of doorbell ringing and knocking. The ordering of Godfather’s pizza (what a treat)! Our being gone for hours at a time. Our fighting and disagreements. Our laughter, our tears, our misunderstandings, our learning, our growing.
Ultimately, these BHG parents, like the mighty pines and oaks, were the backdrop to our developing what would become some of the strongest relationships of our lives.
Obviously very little technology existed during my childhood, which would contribute to our strong binds during the 1970s and 1980s. The irony is not lost on me: the development of technology, particularly Facebook, has allowed those binds to be re-visited and re-kindled in our middle-age.
It’s been such a treat to stay in touch with my beloved BHG friends! In many ways our friendship is more like a kinship. It goes beyond mere “friends”.
So when one of our gang shared that her mother was gravely ill, we were jolted! I realized that I was so impacted by this because her mother was “our mother”. She was the first of the Betton Hills Gang moms to be truly sick.
Earlier today, Missy’s mom died. Thankfully, her family, including her father, has a large network of friends and family at this time. Additionally, they find enormous comfort in their faith. These things bring solace.
And yet. Yet! My heart breaks just a bit for “our mom”, Mrs. White.
Tonight I write for myself, I write for my childhood, I write for the other BHG moms (and dads), I write for Missy and her family, but maybe most of all I write to honor that time, those people, those pines and oaks and jasmine and azaleas, the lightning bugs, that small curved upward stretch of road, my friends. Julie, Debbie, CZ, Michael, Daniel, Jessica, Ali, Dan, Missy, Bart, and our honorary BHG members JaeLee, Libby, Nancy, Marianne, and Sally. And my beloved home on Marston Road.
Dedicated to Missy, to her mother, to childhood memories, and to eternal life.
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