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For much of my childhood, I lived in apartments.
We moved around a lot. Sometimes people here about all of the moves and the 8 schools I attended through high school and assume we were military. Nope. Academics. Close.
Born in Bloomington, IN, then a year or so in D.C., a couple of years in Lubbock, a few years in DeKalb, a year in Arlington, VA, then five solid years in Lawrence, KS, followed, at last, by permanence in Knoxville.

Sometimes there were apartments, sometimes houses – rented or purchased, but when I think about growing up, apartments loom large in my memory, and in a good way. There was never any lack of friends, and we mostly ran free. I know we only lived in the complex in Lawrence for a couple of years before we bought a house, but for some reason, I have more memories associated with that period than almost any other in my childhood – there were woods bordering the complex, which were probably nothing to speak of, but seemed like a forest to me. Baby bunnies were constantly being found, adopted as pets, and promptly dying. Interesting neighbors came and went. My friend Paula’s mother had long straight dark hair and (wow!) played the guitar. (This was 1969. Picture it.) The mother of a little boy in the building firmly told me that he wasn’t allowed to hear the word “hate.” (This was …1969). There was a pool. And best of all, there were the storage cages.
Apartment complexes probably aren’t built with these any longer, (ours has a storage room adjacent to the apartment) but in our complex, each building had a basement which were filled with caged-in storage cells, one for each apartment. It was up to you to lock it, and believe me, I hope you did, considering the fun the kids were having down there.
Most of it was innocent – I remember once, before Easter, blowing out eggs with my friend so we could make Easter eggs. My mother, as I recall, was aghast, that we’d wasted the innards, simply blowing them into a trash can.
Clubs. Of course there were clubs – a perfect place for clubs.
But I did smoke my first and only cigarette down there – I couldn’t have been more than nine, I think.
One of the cages was filled with glittering, towering trophies. Jim Ryun lived in our complex (as did JoJo White, famed KU basketball player, for a time.)
My friend Paula and I devised a way to meet Ryun once. We went to his apartment, knocked on the door, which he opened, and, trying to be serious, but seriously agog, told him that we were doing “odd jobs” around the complex, if he had any work that needed to be done. I have a really bad memory for details of the past, but I still remember his face, smiling (probably trying not to laugh), thanking us – but no.
And so, after all those years, here we are, living the apartment life. The Indiana house has not sold, so this became the best option. At this point, I am actually not minding it,
We’ve spent much of the past year getting our house up to speed, partly because there were things we wanted to do (like finish the floors), but partly because, well, when things clicked into place to move, more had to be done.
Frankly… it’s a relief to be done with that for the moment. (Not that our efforts were succesful at this point…) It’s taken me a couple of weeks to be able to walk around the place in which I live without reflexively checking for flaws that need to be corrected or paranoid about fingerprints on walls or worse. It’s a pleasant change to be able to note a problem with a faucet on the complex’s website and have a guy come and fix it an hour later and leave without taking lots of our money with him.
Throw in the pool, the fact that the complex vaguely reminds us of a Residence Inn and it’s sort of like being on vacation. Sort of. It’s a pretty good-sized apartment and all of us are here together, awake, for only about three hours a day, so it will do. Maybe we’ll be plenty sick of it in a few months, and ready to spread out. But who knows.
When we were, through the late spring and early summer, thinking we might buy a house in Birmingham, and looking around for one, I basically said my only need was a deck on which I could sit with my writing stuff and work.
As you can see, I got it. It’s a little smaller than I anticipated, but I’ve got the basil to keep me company as I try to figure out the next few months’ worth of work and watch, down below, groups of kids racing around like kids do. Like they’ve always done.
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