Perhaps that’s not the correct quotation, but its meaning hit me this past weekend.
I have always dreampt of going back to where I spent the first 22 years of my life, the house I grew up in. Now leaving home at 22 isn’t a big deal except for the fact that it was 44 years ago. We always go back to my husband’s old stomping grounds in Chicago, but that’s because we go down there to see his brother who still lives in the house he grew up in. So we always got to experience where he grew up.
But never where I did.
So Saturday we went to pick up my brother-in-law from a physical rehab center two blocks from my old house, and I asked if I could be dropped off so I could walk around the block once more while the brother-in-law was checked out.
I remember riding my bike to the back side of the block, playing with the few friends I had. Drawing on a chalkboard in one friend’s screened-in gazebo; swinging on my friend’s swingset; Fourth of July tables in front of my house. Three brothers, three girlfriends, and my first two loves of my life lived around that block. I thought I would be swept away with memories and emotions and flashbacks to days gone by.
The only thing that hadn’t changed was my house.
The back side of the block backed up to the golf course, and all the small houses that used to be there had been torn down, huge, gawking houses replacing them. Susie’s house is gone. I don’t even recognize Lucy and Rita’s house. On my side of the block there is an apartment complex across the street from my house where houses and fields once were; even the hospital rehab center is new. The school directly across the street has grown another floor, and there’s a stoplight there, too.
The whole area has changed. The two-lane road I used to play on at 3 o’clock in the morning while my parents were packing to go camping is now a busy four lane. Further away sit new shops, gigantic houses…nothing I knew as a child.
I walked around the block, hoping, praying I’d feel that knot of nostalgia that comes with dipping into the past. The house my dad built is still there, as was Andy the old man neighbors and Lynda’s sprawling ranch.
But the thrill I thought I’d find walking through my past never came.
Oh, it was nice walking around the peaceful back of my block; I even walked past my first love’s house…if it was his house…it was so different. I walked by John’s house, the boy who never knew I existed, and his buddies the Abbotts next door.
But John and Lucy and Lynda were long gone. It was time for me to let the past go, too. I’ve walked my last walk around the block of memories.
My memories, no matter how distorted, are much better.