By Joe Rector
For most of my adult life, friends and acquaintances have at some point asked me where I’ve lived. When I reply, “Knoxville, except for the years I lived in Cookeville for college,” they wonder aloud why I never ventured out. The reasons are many.
When I left for college, I did so only because Mother insisted we boys live on campus and away from home for the first year. She understood that after a year the chances that we would return were slim and none. My original intentions were to find a job somewhere and let life take me wherever it might flow.
During the last year of college, I met Amy, and before long we both knew our lives would be spent together. I tried to land a teaching job or a newspaper job in Cookeville, where Amy had always lived. Even though several people put in good words for me, the jobs never materialized. Only a couple of days before the school year started did I finally secure a teaching position with Knox County Schools. Steady employment brought me home instead of sending me out on adventures to untold places.
We married while Amy was still in school. On January 1, we moved what few possessions a newly married couple might scrape together into a UT married student apartment on Sutherland Avenue. Six months later, we moved to a rental house back home in the Ball Camp community. At least until Amy graduated, we had no plans to move anywhere again.
In 1978 we wanted to build a house and began looking for available lots. Mother spoke up to say that we could build on the back of her 3-acre property. The only condition was that we not wear a path from our front door to hers. No one with a lick of sense could have refused such a generous offer. We moved into our new house in December of that year.
Life continued with all its surprises, and in 1981, Lacey arrived. Four years later, Dallas made an appearance. The family more deeply rooted ourselves in this place we called home, and a path did appear from our house to Mother’s; however, it was she who wore away the grass through the yard as she met grandchildren halfway so that they could spend time with her. It seemed wrong to even think about taking the children away from her.
Over the years, our house has failed to keep up with our needs. Originally, a 1250 square foot house with two bedrooms, it has been remodeled and expanded to twice that size. Going through these renovations and remodeling have proven to be less expensive than packing up and moving to another house in some other place that offers a postage-stamp sized lot.
Amy and I followed Mother’s lead and sent our children away to college their first years. Neither ever came back home. Lacey and her family live in Hendersonville, TN, and Dallas is firmly rooted in Chattanooga.
Sure, we could move somewhere else. The sticking point is that our old house, nearly 40 years old, is home to us and our children. They don’t come home often, but the place is still the anchor for us all. A gathering brings out fun and too many memories, both good and bad, to count.
I’ve spent most of my life in the same neighborhood with no regrets. Too many folks move from place to place and from house to house. My family is happier finding one place to call home; we hunker down and spend our time enjoying life. After visits to other cities and sites, I can return to a familiar and comfortable abode. The real reason I’ve never moved from Knoxville is that I never wanted to.