Friday, June 13, 2014

A Dream House

Natalie Cole remembers her family home. To quote:
When I entered our library after school, my mom would be sitting there having her vodka and grapefruit juice. She'd always have the music on—usually singers like Dinah Washington or Nancy Wilson. There was a wall-length bookshelf, and I'd take a book down and curl up on our curved reddish-brown sofa and read. When it was my turn to choose songs on the jukebox, I'd pick rock and roll stuff, like Jackie Wilson or Chubby Checker. The house gave me great comfort and made me feel safe. I think the way I take care of my home today comes from my mom. She had a way of putting things together perfectly and I learned by watching. She did teach me how to set a table, though. 

I loved when my dad was home. He liked to sit in the living room and watch boxing and baseball on TV. Or he'd be tinkering around or listening to records by his musician buddies—George Shearing, Oscar Peterson and the Jackie Gleason Orchestra. He also loved to drive. In the early '60s, my mom bought him a steel-gray Jaguar XKE with a black top. He liked driving fast, and I was the only one who would ride with him. Everyone else was afraid. He'd often take me to get ice cream. 

Christmas was a big holiday in our house. My dad was always home for the holiday and would have the fireplace going and music playing. We had a huge tree on the front lawn that must have been 40 feet tall. We'd decorate it and the lawn with lights and a Santa Claus that waved, and reindeer that rocked back and forth to simulate running. We were just like our neighbors.

But not everyone liked that. One evening in the 1950s some people showed up and put firecrackers in our rose bushes. Another time a bunch of people put a burning cross on our lawn. My mom and I were the only ones home. My mom was such a little socialite. She rolled up a newspaper, went outside and told them to clear off. There she was in her nightgown with a thick roll of newsprint yelling at the guys. I was flabbergasted. Someone even poisoned our dog, a boxer. My dad was devastated, but we stayed put.

I lived at the house until I graduated from high school and went away to college in Massachusetts. By then, my dad had already died of lung cancer, in 1965, which crushed me. Dad had been everything to me. I returned after college and stayed at the house until the early '70s, when my mom sold it so she could move back east. My sister and I were so upset. It was all we had left of our childhood and our dad. (Read more.)

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