You Can’t Go Home Again

Or at least, I can’t. My childhood home is now a Buddhist temple. I wrote about this awhile back, but now I’ve seen it with my own eyes. My parents’ house is a meditation center and the swimming pool is a lotus pond.

Buddhist Temple

From the looks of things, they’ve got some significant construction plans. But for right now they’re making use of what’s already there.

Grandmother's houseMy grandmother’s house is now the gift shop. It looks like they’ve added onto it a bit as well. Their sign stretches across the carport.





And they’ve taken the concrete slab that was once the screened back porch on my actual childhood home — the one destroyed by a flood in 1979 — and turned it into a shrine.

That’s what’s left of the house I grew up in: a Buddhist shrine. It makes me happy and sad at the same time.

I’m pleased about this, because while I loved this piece of property when I was a kid — 15 acres, a creek on two sides, horses in the pasture — I was very glad my parents sold it. Neither my sister or I would have wanted to live there and it was difficult to sell. Besides, my father is now living on the proceeds of that sale.

And given that the Moore family was in some ways an iconoclastic presence in Friendswood — we helped bring the Episcopal Church to a conservative Quaker/Baptist town — it seems fitting to have us replaced by Buddhists.

But my visit to Friendswood held other surprises. The first was when I hit the city limits. The sign said “Population 35,000.” 35,000! When we moved there, the town had fewer than 300 people.

My hometown, a typical small town except for the domination of the Friends Church (a conservative branch, not the Friends Church of the American Friends Service Committee), a place where everybody knew everybody and nobody locked their doors or bothered to take their keys when they parked their cars, is now a generic suburb of Houston, with very little of its original personality remaining.

It was a conservative place then and, judging by the people it sends to the Texas Legislature and Congress, it’s even more so now, without the small town friendliness that makes that kind of conservatism palatable.

And there’s a wine bar on the main drag.

Friendswood was always “dry” — that is, you couldn’t buy beer and wine, not to mention liquor, in the city limits. The right to sell alcohol in Texas is determined on the voting precinct level, and even when liquor stores popped up nearby and convenience stores began selling beer, those sales took place outside of Friendswood proper.

But the wine bar is a block west of the Baptist Church and about three blocks north of the Friends Church. And I’m sure both those churches still teach about the evils of drinking.

More than anything else, the wine bar convinced me that Friendswood isn’t Friendswood anymore. Not that I object to the wine bar. I’m sure my parents would have loved it back in the days when we had to drive 15 miles to find any kind of bar or a restaurant that would give you a glass of wine with dinner.

But when even the rules you laughed at have bit the dust, you know your hometown is not the same place.

I used to ride my horse or my bicycle to town, but these days I don’t think any parent would let their kids do that. Too much traffic. Lots of big houses on small lots; not very many homes on acreage like we had, with room for horses and vegetable gardens.

Yes, the Friends Church is still there, still in the middle of town, but somehow I don’t think it wields the influence it used to. The Baptists are still going strong, but I also saw a couple of megachurches on the edge of town.

I’m glad to report that the Episcopal Church is still there and is healthy enough to support a school as well as a congregation. It’s always nice when something you helped build survives.

Of course, the Episcopal Church may have sown some of the seeds that led to Friendswood’s transformation. At a time when the public schools refused to hold school dances, we had them in our church. The Quaker minister once came and pulled his daughter our of one of our dances — small town religious war.

But the real culprit was growth, of course. The United States has doubled in population in my lifetime, and the Houston area was one of the fastest growing regions. Small towns can’t survive expanding cities.

I have mixed emotions about all this. On the one hand, my hometown was  a narrow place and I was glad to get off to the city where I could become my eccentric self. On the other, I miss those horse rides into town.

Still, I bet the Buddhists shake things up a bit.



You Can’t Go Home Again — 6 Comments

  1. I wasn’t able to get inside to see it — no one was there when I went by — but the house has windows all along the back wall, looking out toward the woods, which I think would be a nice setting for meditation. We used to sit in the living room and just stare out the windows a lot.

  2. That’s a lovely transformation of your childhood home, Nancy. Beats having your home becoming the town Wine Bar, for example. : )

    • The wine bar would have been appropriate, though. My parents liked to drink, something that distinguished them from pretty much everyone else in Friendswood when we moved there. My earliest understanding of the theological differences among various Christian faiths had to do with whether they allowed drinking and dancing.