It was not the big yellow house with its imposing white columns, nor the fact that six children resided reasonably well (maybe not peacefully, but no one was murdered) within the massive structure, that was our claim to fame in our South Side neighborhood. Rather, it was the fact that we possessed a hitching post in the front yard. The post was made of concrete with an iron ring affixed to the top that made a delightful clanging sound when dropped repeatedly against the worn rocks of the cement structure. As I remember, it was incredibly tall and majestic, a pillar of pride, and a place to meet and tie our wild stallions. Of course I was all of four feet tall myself, and the horses weren’t particularly wild, but aside from that, it was a wonderful point of reference. “Turn left, then right, half way down the street, big yellow house – with a HITCHING POST in the front yard!”
I told my mom it would be a great place to tie my baby brother so that I would not have to watch him, but I am sure she did not have the foresight to see the wisdom of my plan, although, I’m pretty sure that at least one of my brothers or sisters spent several minutes ‘Houdini- style’ trying to escape the knots of an older sibling. It was a meeting place, an ‘Ally, Ally, All Come Free’ (not the ‘oxen-free’ I thought they had said) kind of place, not unlike the house that rested on a slight rise behind it.
The house was yellow when I was young, with black trim and tall white columns covered by a massive front porch. Waist high railings to an adult, it was a climb for a child, but a wonderful place to watch storms and check on the action in the neighborhood. An open invitation for friends to step up, grab a chair and visit; we spent many pleasant evenings on that porch.
I do know from experience, however, that an umbrella will not help you fly from the top of the railing to the ground. It was that day that I lost faith in Mary Poppins. Of course, it didn’t help that I was skating across the top of the foot wide railing on puddles of rainwater, crooning “Singin’ in the Rain” when I slipped and landed on the concrete driveway, hitting my head on the way down.
I ran crying to my mom and it took some coaxing from her to learn the cause of my pain. Expecting to be in trouble for doing something as dangerous as walking the ledge, I was afraid to tell her the truth. It’s not that we didn’t all do it, it was just that I didn’t like to admit that I was that foolish. My mom was quick with the sympathy and ice and surprisingly didn’t berate me for my lack of judgment. Years later she told me the story behind the closed railing on our porch.
My grandfather had built the house for his young bride and my mother grew up in the house we called home. At that time the railings were open with spindles placed at regular intervals. Having spent the day playing in the park doing gymnastics, the young girl (my mother) saw a perfect opportunity to show her prowess on the uneven bars. Pulling herself up to hip height she swung down expecting to pass magically through the bars and execute a flawless flip. The results were less than perfect. She awoke to find herself on the same driveway that I tried to fly onto. She looked up at the six-inch gaps between the black wrought iron bars and shook her head. She said that she felt so stupid for thinking that she could do it, that she never did tell her mother, but was reminded of it the day that I took my solo flight. I always knew that my mom and I shared a lot in common!
Not only did we share moments of childish stupidity, but both of us remained close to home. She gave up the house after Dad died, but never did leave the city she called home.
I, myself, aside from a year in Macomb for college, have never lived more than ten miles from the house I grew up in. Of the six of us, three moved out of state, one moved across the river and one returned to live just east of here. And, although they say the hitching post is long gone and the house has blended into its surrounding buildings; our hearts will always be tethered to the memories of that wonderful porch and the clanging of the hitching post will be forever calling us home.
Originally published on Peoria.com