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A Life of Belhaven Houses

Last week, I drove through my old Belhaven neighborhood in Jackson, Mississippi, taking photos of the houses I’ve lived in. I spent two periods of my life in the neighborhood: from age 3 years to 12; and again through the decades of the 1980s and ’90s.

My life in Belhaven began in a duplex my mother rented when we moved back from Denver, Colorado, after Daddy Joe died. On this street, we ran behind the fog machine that sprayed  for mosquitos and lived to tell the tale. (The house doesn’t tilt; that’s me tilting the phone as I took a photo through the car window.)

When I was in the 5th grade, Mother bought a house (!—a single mom with 3 little girls: the older I get, the more I’m impressed with that feat). We adored the Arlington Street house. It had 7 levels (if you counted landings) and 2 balconies. As you can tell, the balcony over the front porch where we used to sleep under the stars has been removed. Who knows if they still use those French doors to go out on what is now basically a roof. The house is also painted blue where it was white then. And you can’t see the little house in the back which, though it was a real house, we used as a playhouse and where Cheep-Cheep the duck lived for a while. 

We left this house when Mother married, and we moved to North Carolina. I moved back to Jackson in 1982 to practice law and returned to my old neighborhood, kicking it off with another duplex. My unit was the downstairs screen door on the left of this yellow house.

I didn’t last long here before I moved to the Arcadia. I loved this four-plex (that’s my unit with the upstairs porch on the right), but I left it when I married. Doing my drive-by, I noticed it still has window units. 

We (actually me, though I was married) bought this wonderful little house that we extensively renovated. It’s on Pinehurst Street, right down from Eudora Welty’s house. Miss Welty is a famous short story writer. You can hardly see the house up the hill. The sign indicates it’s for sale again. 

For a brief period, I lived in exile from Belhaven. When I got divorced, I returned to the neighborhood and bought my very own house which I loved dearly. The trees around it have gotten so overgrown it, too, is almost hidden. It had a magnolia, fig, redbud, and an oak. When I married again, I commuted a while between Jackson and Memphis. I sold my house (marriage was not good for my house tenures) and rented the Love Shack behind this pink house in Belhaven. That’s an orange trailer of some sort in the driveway. You can’t see the Love Shack, but I didn’t want to leave it out of the chronology. It was tiny. It had 3 patio areas. The heating was terrible in the winter. I adored it. 

When I look at these collection of houses, I see how similar they are. My taste did not change much. As you can tell, the Belhaven neighborhood is lodged in my heart. It formed me. It might be why I’m a writer. I dream of it at night. It’s now a historic district.

Oh, and just for fun, here’s the ditch area where we kids told each other a crazy horse with red eyes reared and stamped in the darkness. We never saw the horse.

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Comments (10)

  • I recently took a drive, too, through all the neighborhoods I lived in as a child – we had a swamp area in one where we fended off algae-crusted lagoon creeps. Love your crazy horse, Ellen! Thank you for the nostalgic ride 🙂

  • Susan Elliott Merrill

    What fabulous homes- each full of special memories.
    It’s so very true. We are so blessed to be raised in such a storybook neighborhood where neighbors lingered on the porch, you knew the mailman by name and by foot or by bike we could safely travel. I have fond memories of your Arlington house: lying flat on my stomach across your Mom’s bed watching the first man walk on the moon that hot summer night- thrilled that her room had a window unit blowing cool air across our faces…of our summer Monopoly games that lasted for days ….we played till the sun broke through the afternoon storms and called us back outside to mount our bicycles and take off on another adventure— perhaps only to accept a challenge to ride down Fairview with no
    hands on the handlebars…
    Famous neighbors like Miss Welty, Marie Hull and Jane Hollingsworth were just nice neighbors that bought our Girl Scout Cookies and had great candy on Halloween night. Sidewalks wrapped around our blocks provided an endless boundary of freedom to walk to our friend’s house. And summer nights were open to play badminton under the spot light till my Dad flicked the lights to call it a night…sending everyone home.
    After 25 years, I’m back home in
    Belhaven where my neighbors and I still visit and linger outside on the porch and we know the mailman by name…except this time around I’m on ‘the other side’ of the lake….but it’s still Belhaven…

    • Oh, Susan, that took me back. I never thought about how key the sidewalks were—thank you for that. As I drove through the neighborhood, I thought, between your two stints here, you know something about every house in this neighborhood (“that’s where the skating displays were at Christmas, that’s where Mother’s tennis friend lived . . .”) I was shocked to discover they’d torn down the house behind my Myrtle house where the guy who tried to smoke a cigar on the airplane lived. And the Belhaven bowl is a football field! Life. I am so happy to think of you “back home.” I know you are enjoying it.

  • Loved all the houses and stories, including the comment section ones. I remember reading Eudora Welty stories in school. It’s nice to think of her as a neighbor buying Girl Scout cookies…

    This post also causes me to reflect on how comparatively few houses I have had in my life.

    • Yes, “Miss Eudora” was my first favorite author. I have read her short story collection “Golden Apples” again and again over the years. And that’s really interesting about the number of houses. Theoretically, I’d have said I haven’t had that many houses—we lived in the same house for the last 18 years. But, in reality, it appears that’s not true. 🙂

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