Discover more from Katherine Howe’s Substack
Houston is more than a place where it's 85 degrees in November.
About ten years ago, my childhood home was razed.
Childress wasn’t an especially distinguished house. It was small - suffocatingly so to my 6’ 3” father - with only two bedrooms and one bathtub and a one car garage, a modest 1940s bungalow in a neighborhood across Highway 59 from what was, at the time, the Summit. When the circus train rolled into town, we could watch them lead the elephants across the overpass from the track on one side of my neighborhood into the arena where the Rockets played, the auditorium seats sticky with cotton candy.
A treehouse in a Chinese tallow with a zipline that dead-ended in a magnolia. A Mexican tile patio my parents built, and some rose bushes. Sliding glass doors through which I got to see the eye of a hurricane pass overhead.
My parents couldn’t imagine being trapped in that house with a teenager. When we moved away, I was inconsolable. Only the ginger and white feral cat waiting for me at our new house in Memorial understood.
When Childress was demolished to make room for what my mother called a “swankienda,” a woman living up the street with her family watched with sadness. She had gone to that house every day for carpool, more than thirty years ago. She attended my sixth birthday party under the magnolia. Maybe you can’t cross the threshold again, but in some way, you’re always still at home.
(Two of the women in this picture attended that birthday party too. They are all now parents at the school we attended together.)
Last weekend, I went home for Kinkaid Book Fair.
My school was one of two that played “Rushmore” in the 1997 Wes Anderson film (Miss Cross’s classroom is where I attended Kindergarten). Every year they host a fundraising Book Fair, and this year I was invited back to visit the creative writing students, sign and sell copies of ASTOR, VANDERBILT, and CONVERSION, and goose preorders for A TRUE ACCOUNT: HANNAH MASURY’S SOJOURN AMONGST THE PYRATES, WRITTEN BY HERSELF.
“I hope this isn’t weird,” my trigonometry teacher said as he produced a textbook and started thumbing the pages after one of my classroom visits.
I had greeted him by exclaiming “Your hair changed!” I said that a lot last weekend. Social smoothness is not one of my strong suits.
He found a sliver of paper that had been torn from a blue book exam, now foxed and faded almost white, and passed it to me. “You wrote that your freshman year,” he told me.
“You’re making me smear my mascara,” I said.
(The title, if you can’t read it, is “Ode to Field Day.” I wasn’t, as you can imagine, much of a team player. All the same. Go Purple!)
The visit ended with an assembly for the upper school.
Every building I ever set foot in on that campus has been demolished and replaced with something grander, finer, less midcentury modern. Gone the locker that would stuck just so when it held a note left by my seventh grade boyfriend. Gone the breezeway where the art kids ate lunch. But as I waited in the wings of the auditorium, a copy of A TRUE ACCOUNT under my arm, listening as the entire upper school stood en masse, recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and sat down, I also knew that in some way, I had never left.
So what’s next?
Things are going to be happening fast. It’s thirteen days until A TRUE ACCOUNT goes on sale. I’ll be coming back to Houston, and to Cincinnati, Cambridge, Marblehead, Murrell’s Inlet SC, and San Diego. On Monday, I’m talking to the Guardian. In early December, I will have an interview with BBC Radio 2 at five in the morning my time. Things are happening. Enough things? We’ll see.