Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Post – #Life – I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! ‘Home’ by Claire Fullerton

I am sure like me, there have been times when you have wondered what difference might have been made to your life, if your younger self had been gifted with the experience and knowledge you have accumulated over the years.

I invited several friends from the writing community to share their thoughts on this subject which I am sure you will enjoy as much as I did.

Today author Claire Fullerton shares her memories of the home that her mother grew up in and returned to with her own family when Claire was ten years old.

I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! ‘Home’ by Claire Fullerton

79 Morningside Park

The house in which I grew up anchors me in the larger world as a frame of reference, although while I was growing up, this was an unrecognized fact. Youth takes given things for granted. I had no way of perceiving the snail-pace of change, that one day I’d walk out the door of the place I’d always called home and close it behind me forever.

The house had familial history. Built in 1901, it had eclectic features— intricate wrought-iron over a series of cathedral doors, a black-and-white tile entrance hall, a lattice-roof gazebo accessed by throwing open the doors of the card room. People in Memphis are mindful of the extreme summers, and fashion their homes accordingly. In the winter, area rugs ran throughout the house, and in the summer they were put away in storage.

Family lore is my mother’s parents went for a Sunday drive and left my then seven-year-old mother with her nanny. Pulling in the driveway of 79 Morningside Park, my general physician grandfather turned towards the passenger seat and said, “I hope you like this house because it’s yours.”

My mother, an only child, grew up in that Midtown, Memphis, four-bedroom house. She kept a Shetland pony in the backyard and rode it along the wooded trails of East Parkway. It was the home she returned to whilst away at boarding school in Simsbury, Connecticut. When she became engaged to my father, it was the setting of their lavishly orchestrated engagement party.

As a child, I visited the house every summer, when my mother took us home to see her mother. We lived up North in those days, my father being from the lake area outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The yearly trip my brothers and I took to Memphis opened our eyes to a disparate culture. To my young eyes, there was an austere tenor to my grandparent’s Southern home, an all-encompassing, echoing formality anchored by serious gravity. Because my grandmother, whom I am named for, loved collecting antiques, my brothers and I minded our footfalls when we visited, well aware that most things in the house were breakable.

I was ten years old when my family moved permanently into that house in Memphis, Tennessee. When my grandparents went to heaven, my mother inherited the house and everything in it. It was as if someone flipped a switch during that first year of occupancy, threw the doors open wide and ushered in new energy. My brother, Haines, played guitar and added weekly to his record collection. My brother, Joe, practiced every game ever played with a ball. And even though we had two Scottish terriers, six months into our residency, I waged a full-frontal campaign and ultimately acquired a cat.

My mother, taking the house’s new dynamic in stride, rolled with the changes, but then again, she was conveniently blessed with a delightful sense of humor. I look back now and realize the finesse she brought to the act of balancing the small details of domestication. Through the years, 79 Morningside Park retained a certain antiquated elegance, but throughout my youth, the energy within remained abundantly and vibrantly alive.

One counts on a place they’ve lived in for years. Adolescents put down roots and mark their turf in the interest of security, and much of my coming-of-age security came as a byproduct of knowing my homes’ history, in tandem with whom I could rely on that lived down the hall. Family is the nucleus of a home’s identity. With enough years strung together, they become one and the same to the point where location is an overarching sense of belonging made of complimentary elements. Where one begins, and the other ends is all but immaterial, when it comes to the concept of home.

Which is why I felt like the rug had been pulled out from beneath me when my mother called me with the news she’d be selling the house in which I grew up. I was thirty-six years old, living in California with no plan of ever returning to Memphis but that wasn’t the point. Only one of my siblings lived in Memphis at the time, and I clutched the phone, fighting back immediate tears as my mother explained the house was too big for her to live in alone as she rattled towards her dotage. She had a good point when she declared she wouldn’t be one of those poor unfortunates having to make a bedroom downstairs in their infirmity, having lost the mobility to navigate the stairs. She’d found a charming, one level, zero lot-line house in East Memphis and was excited about her new lease on life. And of course, I supported her, even as I wrestled with my own fear of change.

It’s been many years since my mother sold the house in which I grew up. Most in my family have passed on, and I’ve long lived in the wilds of California. They say home is where the heart is, and what I now know is how well the heart stores memory. When I think of home, my heart leaps to that 3rd generation house in Memphis, which will serve as my home’s frame of reference for all the days of my life.

©Claire Fullerton 2022

My thanks to Claire for sharing this wonderful trip down memory lane through her memories of the home that meant so much to her.

About Claire Fullerton

Claire Fullerton hails from Memphis, TN. and now lives in Malibu, CA. with her husband and 3 German shepherds. She is the author of Little Tea, set in the Deep South. It is the story of the bonds of female friendship, healing the past, and outdated racial relations. Little Tea is the Goodreads, 2021, July Book of the Month, the August selection of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club, a Faulkner Society finalist in the William Wisdom international competition, 1st place winner in the Chanticleer Review’s Somerset award, a finalist in the International Book Awards, and the Independent Authors Network 1st place in Literary Fiction winner and 2nd place winner for 2020 Book of the year.

Claire is the author of 12 X award winning Mourning Dove, a coming of age, Southern family saga set in 1970’s Memphis. Claire is also the author of 3X award winning, Dancing to an Irish Reel, set on the west coast of Ireland, where she once lived. Claire’s first novel is a paranormal mystery set in two time periods titled, A Portal in Time, set in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. She is a contributor to the book, A Southern Season with her novella, Through an Autumn Window, set at a Memphis funeral. Claire is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Literary

Books by Claire Fullerton

My review for Little Tea January 26th 2020

Little Tea is a simple title that belies a story that is both complex and compelling. Beautifully written, the novel moves seamlessly between the 1980s Memphis and the present, as we become fascinated by the family dynamics, and events that would change the lives of those touched by them. It is a book you will be reluctant to put down, and with some unexpected twists to the story it will keep you captivated to the end.

The story begins with three friends who arrange to meet in a lake house at Heber Springs Arkansas, a few hours outside Memphis. They are coming together in support of Ava, who is experiencing a crisis in her marriage and nomadic lifestyle. The other two women are very different, with Renny the self-sufficient and straight talking veterinarian and Celia, who the author describes as the ‘the friend in the middle, neutral ground, the interpreter’. She is also the narrator of the story as it unfolds.

Others from the past arrive at the lake house, stirring up long forgotten emotions, resulting in Celia in particular, to revisit her childhood and teenage years, despite it raising painful memories she has chosen to bury for over twenty years.

We return at pivotal moments in her story to the 1980s, and begin to see faint cracks appearing in both family relationships and key friendships, as long accepted social mores continue to fade into the past. Just because a law changes, adherence does not happen overnight, particularly when a family is multi-generational, and the young are quicker to adopt the new and more inclusive approach to the way they interact socially.

This is where we meet Little T or Thelonia, daughter of the foreman of the Wakefield cotton fields and plantation, whose family has been in service to the Wakefields for generations. Little T and Celia at age ten are best friends, and with Celia’s brother Hayward two years older often in attendance, they have the freedom to roam the plantation and surrounding countryside together.

All the strands of this compelling story come back to Little T at the centre. She is the catalyst of the events that unfold and will change the lives of the Wakefield family forever. What is acceptable at ten years old is frowned upon in adulthood, and even those who appear to have embraced the new future, hide deeply ingrained prejudices.

The book is beautifully written with a flow that is not disrupted by the time shifts within the story. The characters are wonderfully crafted and even those with more than their share of human flaws, are easy to visualise and connect to. It is a book you will be reluctant to put down, and with some unexpected twists to the story it will keep you captivated to the end.

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – and: Amazon UK – Follow Claire : Goodreads – website: Claire Fullerton – Twitter: @Cfullerton3


Thank you for dropping in today and it would be great if you could share Claire’s guest post.. thanks Sally.

78 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Post – #Life – I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! ‘Home’ by Claire Fullerton

  1. What a fascinating life and I LOVE your old family home. I can imagine the wrench you felt when it was sold. We think our lives – the foundations at least – will never change or rock, but sadly the world moves on. Thanks for sharing – totally fascinated by it. Good luck with your writing and future life. xx

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  2. Egads! What a lovely place to call home for you and your mother. My mother was born in the home where she grew up, and when I was 5, our family moved into it to live (and own) for several years. But, alas, ours has long since been torn down. I don’t know which is worse, to know it is standing and not yours, or to know it’s gone and can never be again. Terrific post, Claire!

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      • Annette, so perfect that you wrote what you did! I know the family who bought the house by a strange twist of 6 degrees of separation! They were a young enough couple at the time, with 3 teenage children, now grown and married. Evey once in a while I’ll see a Facebook post by the husband and that’s me, scrutinizing the photograph’s background to see if I can identify the room they’re in! And this is a fact: when I finished my novel, Mourning Dove, I felt as if something wasn’t quite wrapped up, so I wrote an epilogue about going back to visit the house in which I grew up and included it. The epilogue of Mourning Dove is a true story!

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  3. I can relate to the feeling of stability provided by having your childhood home always there. My parents stayed in ours, and it was a comfort, even though I knew I’d never move back. (It was a three-bedroom ranch, so no mobility worries.) After my mom died, my brother and I had to sell it. (And clear out all our junk that had been stored there.) That was traumatic, to know I was really never going back.

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    • The clearing out must have been quite a task, Sharon! I can imagine!!! I had an elder brother die unexpectedly a few years back, and it fell to me to go to Chicago and tend to what was basically everything in his life left unattended! When the pandemic hit, I took a look around the house I’m now in and California and started throwing everything out! Between that and the California wildfires that come way too often, I’m at the point now where I think if I can’t pick it up and put it in the car, then I’m either repurposing it to somebody, somewhere, or throwing it out! It’s ridiculous the things we accumulate!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a lovely house, I hope it is still lived in and been home to another family. My parents just rented the top half of a rather interesting house till I was six, but I just have to hear music from that time to be transported back there.

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  5. This is so beautifully written, Claire, and full of nostalgia. For those of us who stayed put for much of our childhoods, these places are imbued with meaning and almost inseparable from of our identities. They are very hard to leave. I love the way you brought your childhood home to life for us. (And you haven’t changed one bit since that picture was taken 🙂 ). Lovely post, Claire, and a wonderful series, Sally. ❤

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  6. Another wonderful take on Sally’s prompt! Your family home is truly beautiful and knowing how your mother made it a happy place inside as well, I can understand your sense of nostalgia and loss. I hope you have lots of photographs of the place to pass on to others in the family, and I agree with Diana – you really haven’t changed at all from that photo! I really look forward to each of these, Sally! ♥♥

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    • I appreciate your commenting on the book covers. In my last two books, which are set in the Deep South, I really wanted the covers to look like paintings, and my publisher understood the vision. In Little Tea, I wanted the 3rd generation house to be a character, because it is set in Como, Mississippi, and was once a “plantation” working property where cotton and soybean grew on the grounds. This was part of the story, the way the “old South” really was, and my thought was to have the reader know every room in the house and know the answer to “what if these walls could talk!”

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  7. Such great memories and a lovely, lovely home. I recall the angst when my parents sold the house I grew up in, and also the angst we caused our kids when we sold our home of 35 years.
    Our homes are the vessels for so many memories!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. What a moving post! Thanks for sharing it Claire. I could relate to the memories of home in which one grows up… my heart still lives there though my home too got sold, I revisit it in my dreams and it remains the backdrop of all celebrations. Such dreams reassure me that childhood homes are more than just homes!

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  9. What a beautiful home, Claire. I certainly understand how you felt when it was sold. I know that sense of emptiness very well as our family home was sold under similar conditions. Happily, you have great memories to warm your heart. Thanks for sharing that with us. Hugs
    Reblogged on Improvisation – “The Art of Living”

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    • It certainly was a culture shock to be 10 years old and moving from Minnesota to Memphis. The ways and means of “the old South” then were firmly in tact! It took me forever to decipher the Southern accent! I used the experience in my novel, Mourning Dove, and felt qualified to comment on the South, as it was back then, because I came to the region as an outsider, and that lends a clear perspective that those born to the region don’t have. But the South is certainly worth singing praises… I’ve heard the South called the last romantic place in America, and I think it is. It’s the culture and social mores that make it so. Much of it has to do with the South’s history, for the good, bad and indifferent!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. This is a wonderful post that many of us can relate to. My great grandparents immigrated to Canada in 1911 and eventually built a large wooden house to house their 11 children. My grandmother gave birth to my mom in that house. By the time I came along, it belonged to my great uncle and his family. We lived very near and visited often. No one had lived in it for a long time but we would stop and visit if we were ever nearby, and take pictures of the vacant house and falling-down barn. Then three years ago a prairie fire raced through the area and burnt it to the ground. A collective sadness went through the descendants, now spread all over the world. it was like a piece of history was removed. Glad we have the pictures. Thanks, Claire for spurring these memories.

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  11. What a beautiful house! No doubts it had to be hard knowing the family home you spent your childhood in would be no longer, something you thought would be there forever, like a warm comfy blanket. You will always cherish your memories Claire, they can’t take that away from you. ❤

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    • What’s interesting is how sobering that change was to me. It gave me a big perspective of the scope and range of my life and I began to see the entire thing as the work in progress of a larger story. Humbling, in some respects, and hopeful in others, in that there was also an unwritten script before me because I knew I’d never again “return home.” And I agree with you: memories are a sustaining thing in that they remain a frame of reference as we move forward.

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  12. I can somewhat relate to Claire’s post because I helped get my parents’ house ready for sale after Dad passed and Mom moved into an assisted living center. Even though I hadn’t lived in that home for many years, I had many nostalgic feelings as it was part of my high school and young adulthood history.

    Another trying time was holding an estate sale on my mother-in-law’s place after her dementia progressed to a point she could no longer live there. How do you put a price on things that are part of a person’s history?

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  13. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up – 13th – 19th June 2022 – Lilies, Top hits 1997, Roberta Flack, Podcast, Poetry, Reviews, New Releases, Health and Humour | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  14. What a beautiful memory from Claire. A lovely post and it helps understand the strong sense of place in her writing. Thanks for sharing this post, Sally!

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  15. What a poignant story, and what a beautiful house! However, I suppose your mother was thinking of comfort in her old age. Only one of my childhood homes remain, and I often hanker after the one that has been demolished – I suppose because I was a happy child in a house I loved with 2 parents who were young and healthy.

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  16. Beautiful home and poignant share, Claire. I will forever imagine home to be where I grew up, even though no family member lives there now. Oh the memories… Thank you, Sally, for showcasing Claire today! 💗

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  17. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! – Guest Round Up – Part One – Claire Fullerton, Noelle Granger, Pete Johnson, Sharon Marchisello, Jane Risdon, Balroop Singh, Pete Springer, Carol Taylor D.Wallace Pea

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