Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Revisiting Memory Lane

Here is a post I wrote a couple years ago, about visiting old stomping grounds...

When I was in San Diego a couple weeks ago, and was going to travel to see a relative for the day, the Mapquest program decided to take me through Poway, where I grew up. It probably wasn't the most efficient route from here to there, but I decided it was destiny that I re-visit old stomping grounds and so decided not to re-route the path.

As I drove into the town from the highway, nothing looked familiar. All had grown up too much for me to recognize anything. When I had lived here, this little town was unincorporated. But it's California and it's near San Diego, and so there was no option but growth, I guess. So I figured it was fine to drive through town, but not much of an event.

Then boom - it was like 40 years had melted away. Suddenly I was driving by the old school district buildings - and my old middle school - surrounded by growth, but with no doubt of where I was, where this road was taking me.... Then I drove up Espola Road (wow, just the same, just the same) and then, at Poway Road, I turned left rather than right (so I wouldn't end up driving by the old church after all...).

A few hours later, when I was driving back to my father's house, I couldn't resist. Rather than turn left on to Twin Peaks from Espola Road, I kept driving, headed for our old house. Suddenly all seemed so much the same from when I grew up. I remembered that there was a covenant in the area, where people had agreed not to break up their property into separate lots until at least the year 2000 (I think that was the agreement). That covenant had left the property established into single family homes with huge yards, all chaparral. (Remember chaparral from science class? A type of habitat? There's tundra, and forest, and desert, and chaparral....)

So then I got to our old house, where I lived from the ages of 6 to 12. It looked the same, except it was painted a different color. When I lived there, it was white. I called it the White House. I didn't know at the time that there was another White House 3,000 miles away. (When I found out I thought, oh, the president lives in a white house too?)

And as I peered into the house's back yard - not trespassing, mind you - I saw the rocks still on the hill in back, and thought of all the pretend games we played there - robbers, and Indians, and everything under the sun. Once we were playing a sort of capture-the-flag kind of game, and my sister was hiding out in one of the caves back there, and she said, um, I think I should get out of the cave, and her leader (or was it her captor?) said to stay put, and she said, well, I would, except for the snake in here... And as I remember it now, the snake cooperatively rattled its tail and everyone skedaddled to safety. Of course, that's how I remember it now. It could have been just a regular snake and not a rattler at all. But where is the story in that? Besides, we saw plenty of rattlers back then, in all that chapparal. And fires. Fires, too. Once on Halloween, the fire was coming so furiously that the orange in the sky almost matched the orange-paper pumpkins taped on the windows at school. We didn't always evacuate when there was a fire, but that time we did. You don't stick around when the sky is that orange.

So I saw the rocks and thought of those stories, and took a photo of the memory. Who knows if the rocks will still be there tomorrow, much less 40 years from now? Our old house (no longer white) is to the left, and the rocks are hardly visible - though there are some, right in the middle, and if you knew the site, you'd be able to picture the rest of the terrain. (If you click on the photo, you can see it better.)

And then I kept driving down the street, just looking at the old neighborhood, seeing that the covenant had done its job and people had kept their houses intact as I had known them (with changes, of course, but basically the same).

And then I came upon the corner that had been my old bus stop, for my bus for elementary school. There it was - exactly as it had looked 40 years ago. How is that possible? In California of all places, how is that even possible? But it is. Because there it was, with the rock and the tree and all of it, just as it had been back then.

So then I figured, what the hey, and I went by an old friend's house, and a young woman was in the driveway on a cell phone, and I asked if the family from before still lived there, and she paused long enough to shake her head and laugh and say no and then went back to her phone call, and I felt a little foolish but hey - it didn't hurt to ask. Just in case.