The House on Monroe Street
To think when I was growing up, that I would ever see the house my mother lived in when she was pregnant with me, was certainly an unfathomable thought. It was an impossibility. I would never know these kinds of things, so why think of them? It was too abstract, too boundless, to think too deep about my birth circumstances.
But now, here I was, in North Nashville, with my maternal cousin, parked across the street from the house our great-grandmother Alta once owned; the house where my mother lived when she was pregnant with me. It was more than strange to think I was seeing steps where my father once walked and knocked on the front door for my mother. I visualized my great-grandmother sitting in one of those big, white rocking chairs, maybe sipping on sweet tea, as my young mother and father drove off in his new convertible. I might’ve been conceived in that convertible or better yet, maybe in this house.
Sitting in my cousins’ car, I wondered out loud how the rooms were arranged inside, where the kitchen was, and where my mother’s bedroom might’ve been. I should’ve written to the people living here and asked them if I could tour their home, I mused…maybe next time I visit here I’ll do that.
The house was old, probably built in the 1920s or 1930s. It was still in good shape, and considering it was an old neighborhood, you could tell, it was once a nice one. A library that my cousin said his father would go to often as a teenager, was still on the corner. Standing sentinel in the neighborhood were large, old trees that gently shaded the homes. It was a long, flat street with lots of space in-between the houses. This made sense, I told my cousin, because my mother mentioned our great-grandmother had chickens in her yard. I had envisioned a more rural setting according to how my mother described it, but my cousin reassured me that nearly all the houses in this area had yards big enough for chickens back in the day. It was the norm, he said; chicken for Sunday night dinners.
Seeing my great-grandmother’s house meant so much to me. It’s hard to put my feelings into words. I’m not sure there are words to describe the depth of wonder and joy I felt seeing this old home. It made everything seem real and yet it was so unreal. I wished I could’ve walked around the house and the yard to get a feel of it. I wanted to sit on the front porch and visualize how they once were, who they were; these strangers, these parents of mine when young and my great-grandmother, a kindly, southern ghost-woman who lives in my imagination.
This house on Monroe Street is the only place I might ever know or see, where I knew my father had been on this earth. He once walked up those wood stairs and probably sat on the front porch kissing my young, pretty mother. I envisioned it painted all white back then, with hydrangea bushes in the front yard, while those chickens squawked loudly and proudly in the back. My grandmother, Alta, according to my mother, loved to cook and garden. I’ve since wondered if I’ve inherited some of her traits as I also enjoy cooking and gardening. I know she loved her grandchildren and felt enough love and responsibility towards them to take all three of them in and raise them while her daughter didn’t or couldn’t. I like that about my great-grandmother and feel I can relate to her in that way. I would've done the same thing if I were in her shoes. I see her as a good woman.
If only the walls of this house could talk, I’m sure they would tell me the truth, giving me more of an idea about what really happened between my parents and why their engagement fell apart. My mother told me they were wildly in love with each other and still calls my father the love of her life. My wondering these days comes in terms of what if they had married and I had grown up in Nashville? My life would’ve been so very different. It doesn’t mean better, just different.
This was definitely a highlight. So grateful again to my cousin who showed me around Nashville. It was incredible to see this house—beyond surreal, beyond words—to see the house on Monroe Street.