A trip to see a large old tree, rotten to the core, in my capacity as a member of my village’s Tree Board, led me to the neighborhood where I grew up. In fact, it stands right across the street from my childhood home.
That street served as my madeleine during this visit. Indulge me, recalling the cocky sprite that I was.
As T.S. Eliot said, We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
As I explored I felt awash in memories, each one a bead on a string, recalling experiences that seemed so important when I was growing up, forgotten until now.
The woods where we raked our teeth over birch twigs, relishing the taste of wintergreen.
The curb at the corner where a kid confessed he was sweet on me.
The stucco steep-roofed house, the abode of a witch in my imagination.
The street just over the line in the next town, so near and yet impossibly foreign. An early introduction to the concept of borders.
The house inhabited by my neighbors the Quinns, family of a friend we would now call “learning disabled,” dancing on her lawn to the strains of Dylan’s song Quinn the Eskimo. Yes, I know that Manfred Mann had the hit.
The Andersons’ substantial abode, and it was always a marvel that they rolled out fresh sod to replace the grass each spring.
Our house, with the long shadow of an oak in whose hollow I built houses out of acorns and twigs, now seemingly inhabited by hoarders.
Clapboard across the way, where we knew a friends’ mother was chronically “depressed,” without the slightest inkling of what that meant.
Our neighbors, whose son a jock I never conversed with but who always seemed to my teenage heart the most perfect physical specimen.
A beautifully landscaped property with massive rhododendrons – we’d sneak in and it was always totally, mysteriously desolate of humans.
A house in which lived friends whose mother and father were both, incredibly to me, doctors, and where I almost jumped out of my skin at a slumber party viewing of Hitchcock’s The Birds.
A household perfectly of the times in which the parents smoked pot and the daughters had sex with their boyfriends.
Site of teenage friend’s sudden death by cerebral aneurysm – I remember the oddest thing, that his mother used to bake a ham and leave it on the counter for visitors to consume.
The family whose house I cleaned as a maid for a day until I was asked to scrub the toilets, whereupon I quit.
The sledding hill where I stayed out so long I peed in my snowsuit.
The horse chestnut tree whose glossy conkers in their spiky green suits were the object of my fascination.
The old stone pumphouse, now defunct, with a tar roof that served as a gathering place and fort.
Memories, some of them sweet, others not so much. But they’re mine. You have your own – draw a map of your childhood street and see where it takes your imagination. Know the place for the first time. Yes.