Thursday, April 12, 2012

There Are Some Good Memories

This is's changed quite a bit in 40+ years!
Last night when I was walking the dogs, the smell of honeysuckle floated in the air and I was immediately 8 years old again and living in the city.  Isn't it funny how smells can do that?  I don't think anything triggers a memory or an emotion for me more than a smell does.

We lived on a city block in an apartment.  The entire block was apartments with alley's in the back and small parking lots in between every two buildings or so.  The clothes lines were in those parking lots and they were surrounded by chain link fences.  Someone had planted all kinds of flowers next to those fences so that you could no longer see the fences once Spring had sprung.  There were roses of all varieties and, in spite of the fact that I have never been able to grow them, they remain my favorite flower (as you have probably noticed).  Forsythia grew like weeds in that parking lot and for that reason, to this day I do not like me they are weeds.  There were lilacs also...I love the smell of lilac.  And there were honeysuckles that we used to pinch the blossoms from and suck out the sweetness (when you could get past the bees).

No more chain more flowers.
So I spent a few minutes back in that parking lot and thought, wow, not all my childhood memories are bad.  There are some good memories.  I had a pretty rough childhood.  Not as bad as some but by my mothering standards it was pretty bad.  There was never any physical abuse but you don't have to hit a kid to royally screw them up - sometimes just opening your mouth (or not) will take care of that.

But, like most of us, it wasn't ALL bad.  I made some great friends in that neighborhood.  There was a HUGE tree in the front yard that shaded the building in the spring and summer.  The grass didn't grow under it because of the shade and also because us kids played there every day.  We played red rover, and freeze tag, and jump rope, and kickball and we ran our cars through roads we made by pushing dirt up into mounds and then carving roads in the mounds.

There were pine trees at the corner of each building that, for some reason, grew so that if you squeezed behind them right at the corner, there was a little space down low that made a great clubhouse.  And since there was one at every corner, each clubhouse "belonged" to a specific group of kids and you had to know the password to enter someone else space.

Across the street was vacant land through which ran a creek...well it was more of a stream.  Now I know that the land probably didn't meet some guidelines for development because of that stream but for us, it was a vast wilderness that needed to be explored everyday...but only by the older kids...the younger ones weren't allowed for fear they would wander off and thereby get us in trouble.

The creek is just beyond those bushes and small trees.

Since I lived in the Nation's Capital, we would climb to the roof of our buildings on the 4th of July and watch the fireworks from downtown on The Mall.  Lawn chairs and coolers were on the roof and grills and watermelon stayed on the ground.  We would sit on the stoop and eat and then make the climb.  Believe me, for a kid that was the highlight of the year.  We didn't care that much about the fireworks...we were on the ROOF!  For a long time I thought everyone got to see fireworks like that.

There was also a sidewalk out front that was great for hopscotch, bike riding and running to meet your dad when he got off the bus from work.  It was also where a yucky man "flashed" me when I was 7.  It was so stereotypical because he actually was wearing a raincoat in the middle of summer (hello police...didn't you think that was odd?).  I found it necessary to tell him in my most indignant 7 year old voice that he wasn't very nice before my girlfriend and I fled to the safety of my apartment.  I was, for the most part, an honest, outspoken and brave child...I believe I'm still all of those things.

The basements of all of the apartment buildings were connected and so it made a GREAT haunted house at halloween...or so I was told.  I was never allowed to go which really made me angry but my parents thought I was too young and they didn't want me've got to love the irony of that statement. 

We moved not long after the race riots that took place after Dr. King was murdered.  Race relations were tense then and I was a little white girl who was getting beat up on a regular basis because of it so we moved to the suburbs.  It was sad because I loved that neighborhood with all my heart.  My father had just begun to lose his eyesight (he had Retnitis Pigmentosa) so he was still working and his drinking had yet to get out of control.  My mom was a mess but I don't think I realized it until I was much older.  I think in my mind that move divided my childhood.  Before the move things were good, after the move not so much.

Of course that wasn't true and as an adult I know that in my head, but my heart holds it's own memories.

So thank you honeysuckle bushes for reminding me that I do have good childhood memories and that going back and remembering them does not have to be painful.  Rather, it can be a pleasant and lovely experience that fills me with nostalgia and helps me remember a time when I felt loved.

1 comment:

  1. I loooooved reading this! You are such a descriptive writer, I think I could smell the lilac and see the fireworks and the kids playing tag as I read this!


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