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Blanche Lambert Lincoln: U.S. senator 

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Blanche Lincoln, U.S. senator

Helena

U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln has only one home to recall, the house her parents, the late Jordan and Martha Lambert, built the year she was born in Helena. Her mother lives there today.

I grew up in Waverly Wood. When my father was growing up, my grandfather developed this area as Helena moved westward. It’s kind of back in the hills, where Crowley’s Ridge comes down to the Delta.

The streets were all really narrow, because it was developed for the Model T. It made learning to drive a challenge since automobiles were much wider than the street.

I remember everything about that neighborhood. We lived between my grandparents and my aunt and uncle in a house my parents built the year I was born. My three siblings were born in my parents’ other house, which we called the Pink House. In 1960, they built our house and my and aunt and uncle built their house that same year on what we call The Hill. My cousin Martha and I were born several months apart. We were raised like twin sisters, sharing most everything.

It was a one-level ranch house and it just kept ‘morphasing’ from add-ons. At first, my two older sisters Mary and Ann shared a room. Until I was 8, I shared a room with my brother Jerdie. The bed had cowboys and Indians on the quilt. When I got my own bedroom, it was in the middle of the house, a hallway really. You had to walk through my room to get to all the others in the house. It was great for me. My mother says nothing disturbs me. My brother says I have narcolepsy. It was also great for listening — I could hear everything that went on in the house.

There were four families in our neighborhood originally. The Higginbothams were one — state Sen. Steve Higginbotham’s parents, Ruth and Billy Higginbotham. There was my family. There were my Aunt Blanche and Uncle Tom Choate and Dr. H.N. and Helen Faulkner. We had a group called “cookout.” Every Sunday night for 40 years, those four families, and later some others, had hamburgers and hot dogs together. In the winter, when the sun went down early, all the kids would watch Walt Disney on TV. In summer, we’d stay outside just forever. The big kid sometimes got tagged to take the little ones to Dairy Queen for dessert on long summer nights.

On Halloween, Christmas and other holidays or just regular days of the week it was amazing. My cousin wrote me about it recently. She said we never knew what we had in Waverly Wood until we tried to recreate it in our own neighborhoods and families. How incredibly wonderful that neighborhood was — the security, the fun, the confidence. I could walk in any of the houses in that neighborhood and know that I was a part of their family.

It was just amazing, the freedom. On Halloween, we’d all just group up, about 15 of us, and we’d just go. My mother would say, “Just be back in four hours.” We’d always make sure to end up at my grandmother’s house because she always made caramel apples.

I can remember going to college in Virginia and hearing the girls talk about all the places they’d lived and traveled. I was so envious. Then I told my story. They said, “You went to the same school your grandpa went to? And spent every summer vacation with your family in Hot Springs? Gaahh!”

I use my old neighborhood all the time in speeches as an example about caring for the elderly. When I was 15, I had no earthly idea I was a caregiver. But I was. My cousin and I would swap out. We’d walk dinner up to our grandparents every night and sit and visit.

It was also fun there. My aunt and uncle had a rope swing and a curvy driveway that came up the hill. We’d get on the roof of the house and jump on the rope swing so we could swing out over cars driving up that road. And I remember once my cousin fell off and broke both his arms. Today I get paranoid about my kids breaking an arm. As parents, we all worry, and sometimes forget, that we were fearless once, too.

How did my home affect me? I was surrounded by a loving, caring, challenging, supportive neighborhood and adults who always said you can do anything with your life. You can be a doctor. You can be a nurse. You can be anything if you are willing to work hard and believe in people. I think because of that it never occurred to me in 1991 that I didn’t have any business running for the U.S. Congress. I had been surrounded by people who had always been encouraging and who had supported me in the things I did to the point that I had a huge amount of trust in mankind and I still do.

— Max Brantley

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