Perhaps I was being evasive but I did not make it clear in last week’s column that I, like “Katie” and Troy, lived in an apartment. Not the same apartment complex — ours had fewer units, no tennis courts — but an apartment all the same.
The Book Club seemed surprised when I related something funny heard through the walls. They asked if I felt sophisticated living in an apartment. No, not at all. Deprived, abused, forlorn, depressed, captive, somewhat hopeless, but not sophisticated.
I would have felt sophisticated had we lived in an apartment in downtown Savannah like Skip and Ed, friends of my parents, did. They lived in the historic district just as it was being revived. They seemed like pioneers, worldly, exotic.
Living at the Chateau Villa on Roswell Road felt like bedding down in a loaf of Wonder Bread. I chafed at the fancy name used to describe something so bland. Not that our lives in our previous houses hadn’t been white bread, but it was not so compressed, and there were woods and cows and dogs and so many kids to play with.
I was 13 when we moved into the apartment. My parents said they no longer wanted the responsibility of a house and lawn and all that home ownership entailed. I think selling the house in Knoxville had been an ordeal for Mom. She had helped design the house, she had worked with the contractor who built it, she loved the house. I think maybe she didn’t want to invest that much emotion into another dwelling. Dad, who was in his 50s, was “getting older.”
So, what does an apartment kid do? I read a lot, and listened to the girl downstairs practice on the piano. Luckily she was good. For about a month, every Saturday night someone set off the fire alarm, so we stuffed our poor cat, Mr. Pood, into a pillowcase and ran downstairs, where we stood around with the neighbors we never quite got to know. Finally a kid in the next building was caught, and the fire drills stopped.
Katie lived within walking distance. We hung out at Dunk ’n’ Dine; we watched the A&P workers unload the trucks behind the store. We swam in each of our complexes’ swimming pools; we worked on our tans. We spent hours admiring the furniture at Ethan Allen. “That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard,” one of the Book Club members said.
On many weekends, one of our parents would drop us off at Lenox Square. Then it was just a series of stores with separate entrances and exits, not enclosed, very pre-Louis Vuitton. We loved the milliner’s shop, though I’m sure she didn’t love us. We tried on hats and giggled, though we wished we were old enough to wear hats with mysterious nets covering our eyes.
We went to the record store, we ate, we wandered. Sometimes we’d go to a movie. It seemed like Katie and I were always wandering around, killing time until life happened.
Once, at Lenox Square, it did. We met the Blues Magoos (“We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet”) and got one of the Magoos’ autographs. It was a triumph as short-lived as the band’s career.
My sister and I remember those few years in Atlanta as the most miserable of our lives. We moved back to Knoxville in 1968, and all of our lives turned around. We lived in a townhouse that did seem sophisticated, and it was the social center for so many of our neighbors, whom we came to know and some of them, love.
Jan Hearne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.