At my very core I am a story teller. Tiny bits of my life gathered splayed vividly wondrously in great detail retelling the important moments of my childhood. A simple grain of truth sparking an entire recollection bringing to life the colors and smells of my young life. Home loosely defined for this girl given we had moved several times was one place in particular. Our first home in a small Presbyterian rural community I was in awe of the grand new home development nestled snugly in an otherwise aging neighborhood.
Slate gray rock broken and scattered in the drive and freshly laid sod on the front and back lawns immense and seemingly endless to this young city girl. Flying across the tepid roadway the wind beneath my bottom as I raised to my full stance soaring atop my shiny blue bicycle. This was home.
Our cousins moved in next door and Dad had built a wooden arced bridge spanning the gully from our new house to my cousins that lived next door. Chocolate brown in color it was home plate for many of our childhood outdoor adventures. Our back lot was lined entirely in pine trees lending to the homestead label of ‘Lonesome Pine’ that would adorn any outgoing correspondence.
A few blocks every morning my sisters and I would meander our way to school. A century old home centered in the middle of town surrounded by a vast field to the right. The school was a massive three storey masterpiece with high windows and beautiful gingerbread trim. A big cement stoop served as the main entranceway with two double oak doors guarding access. Smallish rooms with front galleys lined with wooden benches and coat hooks for the milling students to deposit their belongings. Each morning at the main central landing we would gather sitting alongside each other to say the Lord’s Prayer and sing O’ Canada.
And every Friday after school I headed the opposite direction from home a few miles from the school to the local medical center for my allergy needle. My sisters ensconced safely at home while I walked briskly home to beat the nightfall. I remember Peggy my dad’s mother living with us smoking fiendishly and whisking us off to Sunday school each weekend. Tobogganing in the fresh winter snow high atop Zach’s hill narrowly escaping the cow patch at the foothold. Stuffing our vinyl green furry winter jackets into the hedge at the old woman’s house just around the corner from school saving ourselves from certain ridicule given sleeveless puffy vests were all the rage.
This fresh onslaught of memories so endearing as I reminisce my youth. Feeling melancholic I journeyed to this place wanting I suppose to feel once more the magic and exuberance of yesterday. To know again the giddy freedom from burden and responsibility. The satisfaction and comfort in this place whose mainstay was my only sense of permanence in an otherwise nomadic life. The heart of my childhood.
It was a beautiful sunny late September day. I was anxious with anticipation wanting my children to see what I had lovingly remembered and portrayed in my stories. I wanted this place to be just as I left it, unmarred in time. The crescent hill seemed so small. The expansive gully and bridge were no longer. Did I imagine the beautifully crafted bridge? Our childhood home was barely recognizable with several additions and a paved drive. Homes so close together that a walkway bridge made no sense. The lawns sullied with plastic ornaments and painted garishly.
The old school now an apartment building adding on to the old century home. The field where we held track and field meets a small fenced in square lot littered with scrap metal and boulders. It was difficult to picture my sister reaching her stride to cross the finish line earning her first place red ribbon. My Aunt cheering us on from the sidelines.
We drove next to the arena where I starred as a lovely butterfly on ice and where we skated every Sunday throughout winter. The original building stood tall next to the legion. The park sat silent alongside the gentle stream running through it.
I wanted to go home. I was filled with an unprecedented excitement. My dad leaving our family a few years prior I suppose heightened my desire for roots and stability in the availing upheaval. I wanted so badly to relive and believe in everything I imagined my life with my dad prior to be. But life moved on.
I am saddened to wonder whether the bridge existed at all in any pretense as I imagined or whether it was a glorified pine plank strewn across a narrow gap in adjoining lawns. Did we leap from the flat topped railing pretending we could fly? Did the bad Wolf come to frighten our children enticing them from the coop; was this home base for Capture the Flag and Tag?
The romance and magic of my childhood lives strong in my mind. I long to keep these memories burning bright sorrowful at this interruption of reality. I am entitled to create, building my own version of reality from what I see, hear, touch and feel to be so much more than what it ever could be. Children are amazing creatures, resilient in body and mind. Much of my past life with my father, the good – relies on how I remember. I want to keep alive my own version of my life a little while longer. Choosing to forget going home.