My childhood home is now a Buddhist Temple.
How cool is that?
I should hasten to add that it’s not the house I grew up in that’s the temple. My childhood home — a large frame house painted barn red — was destroyed in a 1979 flood caused by a stalled tropical storm that dumped 41 inches of rain on the property in 24 hours. (That’s the North American record for rain in 24 hours. You can look it up.)
Rather the temple is located on the 15-acre property where I grew up. Judging by the pictures on the Dharma Spring website, they’re using the house my folks built in the early 1980s for services. And I think the lotus pool they show on their website is in the swimming pool. (The swimming pool my mother wanted all her life and finally got when they sold their newspaper a year after the flood and finally had some extra money.)
Here’s a picture of the property from the Dharma Spring website that will give you some idea of what the empty parts look (and looked) like. I think the bare spots in this picture are the remains of the old driveway.
My parents weren’t farmers; they were journalists who worked on both the Houston papers before they quit working for other people and started their own weekly in Friendswood, the town nearest to our property. (You’ll notice from the sign that the temple is technically in Pearland, another nearby town. Friendswood is closer, but there’s a county line between the property and Friendswood.) But my parents were also from West Texas and wanted to own land. They also liked their privacy.
So we had a big drafty old house on 15 acres. When my grandmother retired, she put a small house on the property. My mother kept about an acre mowed and landscaped (she had a green thumb), and the rest was pasture. We kept horses, not in any organized way, but just for fun. We tried raising various other animals — cows, sheep, chickens — but the cows and sheep tended to get out of the pasture, causing my parents to spend their weekends chasing them down, and the chickens fell prey to raccoons, snakes, and the family dog.
It was an idyllic place to grow up. We played in the woods as well as in the yard and rode the horses (when we could catch them). About the only drawback was that there weren’t many people nearby. Getting together with friends involved parents and cars. Though that meant both my sister and I got our driver’s licenses as early as we could, since our folks got tired of carting us to school and other activities.
But as my parents got up in years, keeping the place up got to be a lot of work. Plus it was worth a lot of money (especially compared to what they paid for it in the ’50s) and they needed the cash to live on. So they put it on the market.
It was difficult to sell, even during the crazy boom market of the early aughts (or whatever you call the first five or so years of the 21st Century). 15 acres was too large for an individual home there anymore. It was worth too much money to use for agriculture, but it wasn’t really big enough to develop for homesites.
Finally a local Baptist congregation bought it, with the help of the Southern Baptist organization, with an eye to building both a church and a school. However, for some reason, they never got around to doing anything with it.
The other day, an old friend of my sister’s told her that there was a sign on the property for a Buddhist Temple. I googled it, and found Dharma Spring Temple. It’s a Vietnamese Buddhist group, non-denominational, led by an abbot, the Venerable Thich Tri Hoang. According to the website, he has studied with Thich Nhat Hanh, among others.
It looks like an inviting place, and I plan to go visit it the next time I go down to the Houston area. (I’ve got a high school reunion coming up down there this year, so I should get a chance to go see it.)
I’m very glad to have Buddhists end up taking over this land. It’s a beautiful piece of property — lots of trees — and there’s not really much of that kind of open space left anywhere in the greater Houston area. It cried out for this kind of use. And while I’m not officially a Buddhist, I find most Buddhist practices compatible with my world view.
Alas, I don’t have much in the way of pictures of the property when it was my childhood home to show. My family has always been terrible at taking photographs of places; we have a few snapshots of people, mostly taken by grandmothers. But here’s an old photo of my parents sitting out in the woods on the property.
Flashes of Illumination, a collection of my short-short fiction, is now available here from Book View Cafe. This 52-story ebook collects the flash fiction I published weekly during the first year of Book View Cafe, and adds in a few later stories as well.
My novella Changeling remains available as an ebook through Book View Cafe. It’s a coming of age story.
Both books are $2.99 and available in four DRM-free formats: mobi, epub, prc, and pdf.