Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A good house is hard to find (Inside Flannery O'Connor's childhood home)

There's something about our childhood homes that scores our psyches. As we grow into adulthood, these rivulets remain, allowing time to run backward into memory. Up until I was about eight years old, for example, I lived in a house that butted up against railroad tracks (the train literally ran about 15 feet from our back door). I can remember looking down on the cars racing by from my second-story bedroom, their bellies laden with coal, snaking their way along the river valley that we called home. But what I remember most of all are the strange dreams I had when I was a kid about the letter "A." In these dreams, the letter would start off really small, get humongous (and loud), and then fade again into the distance: a...a...a....a...a...A...A...A...A...A..a...a...a...a... It wasn't until I stayed at my dad's when I was about 25 after living away from home for several years that I figured out that these As were tracing the path and sound of the train, growing as the train grew closer, fading as it faded into the distance.

While in Savannah, I was able to visit Flannery O'Connor's childhood home. So, I figured why not give you a virtual tour of the house, letting the early influences on her imagination speak for themselves (with a few captions to guide you along).

O'Connor and her mother from the mantle in the family room. 

O'Connor's "Rolls Royce" of prams, a gift from her generous Aunt, complete with initials "MFOC" (Mary Flannery O'Connor, the Mary dropped later because, according to our tour guide, she didn't think anyone would want to read the writing of an "Irish washerwoman.") 

O'Connor's childhood books. She would rate each book in the frontispiece, and was often not very kind. She called Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, apparently, "the worst book ever." For shame, Mary Flannery. For shame.

Here's a good example of such an assessment: "Not a very good book. M.F.OC."

The view from the back kitchen window. 

The crackled glass of the home's original front door (the door was moved to the back of the house sometime after O'Connor lived there). 

The super-tight upstairs hallway, spanning about two-and-a-half feet, that connected Mary Flannery's room to her parents' (their rooms were also connected by a door between the two rooms). 

O'Connor's childhood bedroom set, complete with two beds even though she was an only child. The bed is on wheels, allowing her to roll the bed up against the windows for fresh air, much to her mother's chagrin.

A photograph of the young girl reading, one of my favorite things in the entire house. First of all, I love her haircut;). Second of all, the look of fierce concentration that warns others they better not bother her. 

One of her childhood dolls. 

O'Connor's crib, complete with mesh to guard against mosquitoes. The crib was placed under the windows looking upward onto the spires of the cathedral across the way (see below). 

O'Connor's parents' bed, her mother's ghostly body suggested in her wedding nightgown. 

My other favorite thing in the house: the fact that Grimm's fairy tales is "bathroom reading." According to our tour guide's conversations with O'Connor's childhood "friends" (whom she really didn't care for very much), she would invite her "playmates" into the upstairs bathroom for reading sessions, reading to them from the Grimm's (see below). She also apparently had a weird tradition of decorating the toilet with flowers for her guest's. 

Exiting the new(er) front door. 

The plaque marking the home, along with a view of the square "cattywampus" to the house. 

Outside. We weren't able to see the third floor, sadly, because it is now home to the curator of the house. 
A place most definitely worth a visit, if you are ever in that neck of the woods. Tomorrow, we'll continue the Savannah Chronicles with a tour of the city's haunted spots. Until then. ~Alice
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