TrIP Blog Day 8: Place, Time, and Memory in Lonesome Pines by Moriah Lorraine Russo

On November 9th, I rode the Lynx route 102 to the 48 into Pine Hills, disembarking on Powers Drive to walk to my grandmother’s previous home in Lonesome Pines on Tebbetts—a house in which I spent many summers and learned life from my namesake-“with-the-red-hair”, Lorraine. My grandmother’s house was a kind of Brigadoon—it existed as a place connected to nothing greater than a neighborhood block, entered and exited only by backseat rides. I hadn’t visited the house in about a decade, and my grandmother moved out over five years ago. Riding the Lynx to a place of many memories allowed me to replicate the experience of visiting the home as a child unaware both of my surroundings and of the interconnectivity of places. Of course, my recent trip to grandmother’s house had its inherent differences to those of my childhood memories. Though still having been transported, now I was aware and critical of my surroundings. The place has changed (as do all places) and I am compelled to reflect on the causes and effects of the transformation. I think of this change in a few time frames: My grandmother’s occupation of the house on Tebbetts Drive (1974-2008), Pine Hills’ existence as a community (1950s-2010s), and my experience of the neighborhood (1990-2013).

Begun as a bedroom community for what was then Martin Marietta, Pine Hills flourished as an upper-middle class suburb from the mid 1950s. From New Jersey, my grandmother, along with her husband and three boys, moved to Pine Hills in 1974. During the late 1980s, after partial annexation efforts on behalf of the City of Orlando—resulting in underrepresentation and higher taxes—, combined with the exodus of first-wave suburbanite families to newer neighborhoods, Pine Hills began to witness an economic decline. The telltale signs emerged: the country club closed, shopping malls were abandoned, crime increased, and Pine Hills lost its appeal to conventional suburban families and Silent Generation snowbirds. Lorraine didn’t care much, as some of her friends stuck around, and most of her days were enjoyed on the porch and patio. Despite efforts to prevent crime and provide more government services, police patrols, and community programs through the “Pine Hills Safe Neighborhood Partnership” and a strategic revitalization plan, the neighborhood still struggles to free itself from the unloving nickname, “Crime Hills”. My grandmother moved in 2008, after reluctantly acknowledging discomfort in her home.

Though my thinking for this project existed for a long time in the territory of social and urban sciences, AND though my fully realized TrIP project will be the result of efforts to combine a reflection on time and place in destination and also experience of transit, I know that the only story I am qualified to tell is that of my own experience of time and place. Thus, this phase of my project is an effort to revisit ephemeral memory (Tebbetts Drive) through a condition similar to the grey-carpeted backseat of grandma’s Buick Century (Lynx 48).

I will begin by offering a poem in reflection of my day riding the bus:

“to friend”: or, you’re 3x late; 1:34pm

navigate new dead ends

through streets of birds

pumping uncontrollably

at dangling drapes 

and fear of lights that

illuminate my desired undiscoverables

bare to the cats.

drive me back to dry dark,

but next time offer your hand—

like onion in an ointment—

over my puddles.

Additionally, below is an incomplete reflection on my grandmother’s house on Tebbetts Drive—‘incomplete’ as it is a landscape of my dreams, always revealing more of itself in a kind of inaccessible hindsight. My reflection is accompanied by four images: (1) the lens for the following reflection: me, age six, taking out the trash at night in grandma’s rainbow umbrella hat; (2) an oak tree sapling, planted circa 1975 by my father’s family + dad’s first car on the drive; (3) the present-day home in Lonesome Pines, with oak tree aged nearly four decades, photographed on November 9th, 2013; and (4) Google map of the Lynx routes by which I traveled.

(1)
Umbrella Hat

(2)
1975

(3)
house

(4)map

Grandma with the Red Hair always veiled the settled smoke from cigarettes of thirty years, though thinly and never for her own satisfaction. Gummy orange-scented fresheners forgot homographics, and security chimes strictly measured outgoing air. 

It was always the afternoon. Sheets printed with bamboo stalks guarded the unapproachable west-wing where a desktop computer awaited its death by sledgehammer and spade bit—staring, in the meanwhile, at a patient treadmill and a poster of true love on horseback.  East along the bamboo covered walls, past the door marked “Dick”, my room and my father’s, and where the ceramic cats garnished with glitter curled in wicker baskets, the splayed plastic cup painted in strips welcomed reflections traveling from window to mirrored wall and back again through swinging ferns and pastel ladies. In the smoky corner, we gave no thought to the cabinet dressed with glassware—all dusty but the faceted cooler cups for pinkies-up bedtime Ovaltine. 

I was immune to the past and Grandma excelled at impressing me in her elastic shorts. There was nothing that her varicose veins did not charm with apparent wisdom and complexity. I loved her garbage cans and when her arm dipped into the pool filter within porch-view. Mystery hung around the garden bench that reigned over the only area immune to the rake. It was a place for her memories. Lizards huddled in the yew, waiting only to be caught by chlorine in their daily splash rations in between my cannon balls and in between my milk jugs. “Go Fish” with Rose whose roof fell in and filled some of the extended golden hours filtered through the tinted vinyl, coloring carpet and air alike as your words crisscrossed without any need for that grey eraser.

Open the VHS cabinet. Let me alone behind the closed door with the red wire coach and then I’ll blush at Public Affairs on the guide before swiveling the mammoth below Chinese fans and cage myself under the wicker chaise. Only you are light enough to lie or sage enough to sit reflective upon the wall of peacock chairs and guard the pocket door with the little lever that flapped from my finger over and over.  

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