Friday, July 18, 2008

Memories Form the Corners of My Mind

How to write about my lying childhood memories has been mulling around in my brain for too long. It’s time to sort out thoughts and lay them to paper (or cyberspace if you want to get specific).

Harkening back to my holidays in Ontario (I’ve been back a month now), I was visiting scenery and people that I hadn’t seen in 26 years, and hadn’t lived there for some 34 years. That’s a long time for the memory to fade and regrow a new, more romantic version of things. I am thankful for the harsher rememberings to have had their edges dulled with time, but I had not anticipated the realities of physical places to have shrunk. The house was smaller, the yard was smaller, the long and painful walk into town seemed - - bitterly short compared to the ways I remembered any of it. You know “I walked to school every day barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways”.

The first reminder of faulty thinking was as we were closing in on town limits, my girlfriend ask “Do you remember the fort you found and showed me in that crop of trees?”.

The mental picture that I drew in my head at the word “fort” saw a large stand of trees far off in the middle of a farmer’s field. What I saw when I looked in the direction she was indicating was a much smaller group of trees with lots of brush, a child’s mere stone throw away from the road. It did not look familiar.

Once in the town limits my eyes were immediately scanning for familiar buildings – the house where my only “towny” friend had lived, but I didn’t recognize it. Shortly after her house was the lumber yard and store that my dad had managed. And when we first moved to town my parents and I lived in the apartment above the store. I had a grand playground of warehouses and saw sheds - a creative child’s veritable kingdom for imagination. However, once again my eyes and memories deceived me as the yard, the lumber, the outbuildings were all gone, and the store area and attached warehouse had all been converted into an apartment building. The once glassed store front had been bricked in and doors and windows from a ground level apartment greeted me.

Even the one main crossroad (no four corner stop, or stop light for that matter) had changed. The business’ had all changed, but to my now overwhelmed psyche is was (silly enough) relieved that the Appliance store was still the same old store with the wide cement stairs leading up to the front doors. It reassured me that I had not been dropped into the Twilight Zone.

My next major shock came after we passed through town. We only lived above the store for a year or so, and then my parents purchased an old farmhouse on an acre of land just a ¼ mile south of town. It was and still is the very first house you came to after you left town limits. Again in my mind’s eye I pictured it as I remembered it – huge yard with tall coniferous trees lined on one side and three big tall maple trees lining the driveway on the other side. The house itself had been your usual two story farm house, small rooms with small windows, a closed in porch on the front and at the side. I do distinctly remember its exterior being covered in ugly grey sand stucco with bits of coloured, sharp, broken glass in it. Never liked the stuff. I also had a HUGE weeping willow tree in the back yard that my dad had hung a three foot in diameter swing from. I spent hours out there in the summer.

My jaw dropped as we drove by that day. You could have blind folded me and plunked me down in front of it, and I wouldn’t have believed it was the house I once lived in. Half of the coniferous trees had long since been taken out. There was a 15 foot hedge that grew on two sides of the entire acre, they had once been shorter that me at 11 years of age. And the house!!! The house was now wide white siding, large-ish windows upstairs and huge bay windows upstairs and down. Upstairs where the single bay window is now was once two windows signifying my mom’s bedroom on the right and my bedroom on the left. Since the bay window was all one, I had to assume that they’d knocked down the wall between the two small bedrooms and made a decent size one bedroom (bravo!). And my wonderful giant weeping willow – was gone – as if it had never been. In my hay day in the house it took three friends and myself to link hands to make it around the trunk of the massive old man. I silently mourned the loss of my tree.

But I was also silently mourning the loss of my youth. The reality that life moves on was very powerful. The reality of my childhood memories of how things ‘were’ was being challenged. I hadn’t expected to feel so betrayed. I’m not naïve. I know things in life change, move, evolve, but I really hadn’t expected how I would feel. I actually preferred to remember things as they were. At least some things. The ‘harsher’ memories I alluded to earlier can stay with their dulled demeanor. I have no wish to revisit them.

It was, all in all, a good visit to see it all again. I wouldn’t trade any of it for any price. I did attempt to speak to the people not living in my old farm house, but no one was home. I’m not sure I would have known what to say to them anyway.

All of this has given me pause in thought of every visiting the town I was born in and moved away from at the age of 10. I had thought that it would be fun to show my husband where I spent those single digit years. But I think maybe I’ll just live in the moments that will live forever in my memory and leave it at that.

1 comment:

linds said...

I really liked this entry. I liked that you were able to talk about some of your childhood memories and how things can change over time and be different than how we thought they once were. It can be a very difficult, but enlightening experience. I also loved the video of the kitty and the bunny!! Too cute!!