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The place that never was

One NolaVie writer questions whether she visited a twilight zone near southern plantation country.

One NolaVie writer questions whether she visited a twilight zone near southern plantation country.

It’s that time of year again, when the veil between the worlds of darkness and light is lifted and all manner of weirdness bleeds into our world. In our family we always joke about Halloween being a year-round event, as the weirdness never stops with us.

When I was a kid around the age of 8 or 9, I remember a trip I took down River Road with my aunt and her two daughters. My cousins were a bit older than me and probably taught me a lot of things I didn’t need to know.

We weren’t going very far down River Road from my aunt’s house and I remember the location very well. My aunt needed to run an errand, so she piled us kids into the back seat of the car. I remember how rowdy we were. I remember how sassy my cousins were. I was shocked at what my aunt would tolerate from them. My mother would have slapped me silly if stuff like that came out of my mouth!

We pulled into a long driveway and drove to the main house. It was a plantation-style dwelling with a yard full of trees. I don’t remember seeing any people or other cars around.

We all piled out of the car and, while my aunt went inside the mansion, we stayed outside to enjoy the yard.

I distinctly remember playing behind a large cistern that provided water to the house. The cistern was nestled in a corner where two sections of the house met. We squeezed between the cistern and the wall to get behind it. For some reason we thought this was a fun thing to do. There’s no way an adult could have fit in that space.

It seems like we ran around the yard for at least an hour, but, in kid-time, who knows how long it actually was. To this day I can still see the driveway that ran along the side of the house to the back of the property, where a huge garage stood. I can still see the shrubbery we ran through. I can still see the long veranda that ran along the back of the house. We had the best time running around the yard tagging one another.

Years later as an adult, I was relating this story to my mother, just remembering good times. My mother looked at me with that look that mothers give you when you have just told the biggest, bold-faced lie.

“What are you talking about? That never happened. Your aunt never once babysat for you.”

I was flabbergasted.

I proceeded to relate in more detail the events of that afternoon.

“You must have dreamed it. It certainly never happened.”

But I insisted that it was not a dream. I distinctly remembered the house, the yard and the details of that afternoon. In order to prove it, I took a ride down the River Road to point out the house we had visited.

I remembered the location as if the entire event had happened yesterday afternoon, even though it had been about 20 years before.

We drove up and down River Road and I was sure that I had been passing the location without recognizing it. I just couldn’t find the house.

“Did they tear it down?” My mother answered me with a surprised look.

“There never was any big house here. The house you are talking about never existed except in your imagination.”

Nope. Nope. Nope. I insisted that there was a house and a yard that I had played in that afternoon with my cousins.

But there was no house. My mother insisted there never was a house there.

We continued to drive up and down the River Road, farther afield than I knew we had gone on that day. The trip from my aunt’s house to the phantom mansion had not taken long by car at all. Not more than a 10-minute drive. I drove much farther than that in both directions and ... nothing.

There are many plantations and smaller plantation-style homes along River Road, but none of them fit the exact configurations of the house we had visited.

So, what happened to the house? Was I imagining it all, all these years? Did I dream up the whole thing? Did I simply forget what the house and grounds looked like? Did someone renovate the house, changing its appearance enough to be unrecognizable to me?

Or did I, as a child, visit a twilight zone? Another dimension?

I will never know.