“Red” and I were lucky enough to have had the opportunity to travel a little this summer; and when we were invited to attend my cousin’s retirement dinner – we jumped at the chance to see family I hadn’t seen since my childhood. Not to mention I so wanted for “Red” to be able to see my childhood hometown.
I recall the local library where I first discovered my love of books; the public park down the street that had those great swings with the metal chains that squeaked under the weight of myself and my friends; I recall some of the best single slice NY style pizza and discovering cream soda for the first time. Not to mention, the local produce stand where the “Apple Man” always handed out apples to the kids in the neighborhood.
The closer we got to that day in June, the more excitement I had about our trip. I had visions that I would be bold enough to go up to the folks now living in my childhood home and ask permission to see if some piece of my childhood still remained.
The one thing in particular that I wanted to look for occurred when my dad had renovated the front of our garage at one point when I was just a toddler. My mom decided that I (or at least my footprints) would be immortalized in the new concrete that he had to pour during the construction. I still recall seeing those prints years later along with my birth date inscribed in my mothers handwriting. I remember comparing my shoe size to the barefoot imprints to see how much I had grown. I thought for sure that whoever lived there now – wouldn’t mind if I looked to see if they were still there. I felt compelled to either get a rubbing or photograph of this small piece of my immortality.
As we drew nearer to my childhood home that first night in town, I was suddenly struck by how much everything had changed while I was away. Sure, there were still a few familiar land marks – but this was no longer the town I remembered.
As the sun was beginning to set, we approached the house. I was able to show “Red” my former bedroom window, the front yard that I spent many hours playing in and the neighborhood that I rode my bike through on many a lazy summer night. When he asked if we were stopping – I simply said “no”.
When we got to the hotel that night he asked why I had changed my mind. I told him that I wanted to remember the house and everything about it as it was so many years ago. I was afraid that if the people who lived there now would have agreed to let us in and look for my footprints, the changes I would have found inside might have caused my childhood memories to evaporate. I felt that I owed it to my parents (and myself) to remember things the way they were then, not as they are now. Now – they are someone else’s “childhood memories” – and I’m okay with that.