Friday, August 24, 2012

Memory lane--the walk around the block

We used to do Super Surprise Fridays around here, but we stopped because it seemed like every day was a super surprise. I hardly remember last summer with packing and moving and unpacking. And this summer was one long blur of splashes and green fields and friends over.

With just a few weeks left before we start school, I reflected (a bit self-pityingly, ugh) that we didn't really do anything family vacation-y. No beach trips or amusement parks or camping (laughing at the camping, because that is not us!). Oh, boo, first-world woes. I hate them. And I hated feeling sorry for us, however momentary, that there was no vacation for four--when we've had beautiful and memorable weekends poolside to spend together.

I looked at the calendar, and yesterday I took the kids out for a super surprise. These kinds of things make me a bit nervous, because my plans and their imaginations don't always line up. Disappointment can really kill a day trip.

Luckily, the kids weren't disappointed. I packed a big picnic lunch and lots of cold water. I grabbed my camera and the red-and-white-checkered table cloth. And we went off to my (really) old neighborhood--where I lived my childhood. We spent hours at the big park (which was on its third makeover at least!),

and took a train ride through the woods (which hadn't changed at all!),

and then went to the live butterfly exhibit. And this year--it was the absolute best time for all of us. One little girl there was crying and clinging to her mama, which reminded me of Lanie a few years ago. I looked at Lanie, and we remembered. But this year, Lanie was hopeful one would land upon her--and one did, to our delight.

the kids' garden on the way to the butterfly exhibit

butterfly on Lanie

Then we drove to my old neighborhood. I packed the kids' scooters so we could walk around the block. I wish I had walked slower.

my first home

street view

"There's my house!" "That's where my school bus stop was!" "My neighbor Alouise lived here. I used to climb her fence to my back yard." "This is where I trick-or-treated." "That's the house I stopped and had to call my parents to pick me up because I couldn't make the walk home." "That's where the mailman lived." "I used to help Mrs. N do her gardening."

Lanie and Erin on sidewalks
The girls enjoyed the day and the novelty of sidewalks and thought my neighborhood was great. (I did too!) We finished the trip around the block, and I wondered if I could do one last thing: take a picture of them in my (old) yard.

I rang (my old) doorbell and waited. A woman answered, and I explained I used to live there a long time ago. She shrugged her shoulders apologetically and mumbled no hablo ingles. So I pulled out my 20+-year-old broken Spanish and butchered (more than) a few verbs and explained who I was and asked if I could take a picture of my kids in her yard. She said yes.

I lined them up to my photo memory of me and Mom on a first day of school over 30 years ago.

my mom and me 1975-ish
Lanie and Erin 2012

The front door opened and a man came out. I recognized him immediately. I turned to greet him and started to say, "Thank you for letting me do this. It means so much to me." And then I was crying (crier that I am) and hugging him. He bought that house 30 years ago this year and has called it home ever since. His (now grown) daughter lives across the street, raising her family.

I told my girls about how I'd play in the front yard. I knelt down and touched the soft grass. Looked at the massive trees still growing, and smaller ones that had replaced the former hulks. I have such a fond connection to that neighborhood. I've dreamed a million times of living there, and even yesterday, I wondered if there was ever a way to go back. (Shane said no.)

 My family moved out of that house when I was thirteen, and it wasn't until my 30s that I ever felt I could call a place home (our last house).

When my friend Pete came out to visit us this summer, he mentioned (our current house) reminded him of his childhood. I learned we grew up in the same area, and I agreed and realized that that was probably one of many things that drew me to this house we're in--and why I feel such a strong and deep sense of home in it.

I'm so glad that that family is still there. So glad for a beautiful summery day to spend with my girls. Glad for that walk around the block. Glad for my (sometimes inappropriate) tears. Glad for the reminder to number days--so that silly pity of first-world woes doesn't rob me of the abundance in a rich and beautiful now.

I would never have traded yesterday for anything.

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