Switching gears for a moment. Yesterday I had to travel to the city in which I was born. To make things clearer, I now reside, after years of living several states away, in the adjoining city of my birth place. The distant in miles isn’t that significant, but the lifestyle is worlds apart. It isn’t a bad place to live, in fact it has it’s pluses, it is where I was born, where I resided during my formative years, received my basic education, to include undergrad education. I learned how to drive on my neighborhood streets and parking lots, as well as, surrounding neighborhoods. My initial introduction was an automatic transmission and later a manual stick. My first car I actually used my savings with matching funds from my uncle, a VW with manual transmission. It was crazy yellow with dark brown seats. I would transport my circle of high school girlfriends to basketball games, the after games hang-out at the bowling alley and parties.
My task yesterday was to travel from the east to the far western part of the city. Literally cross the entire city, the caveat was to avoid a major construction site, the rebuilding of an over pass that sits in the middle of the city. A main highway that connects east to west, north to south. I wasn’t worried about getting lost. I’m just a stickler for logistics (which is my business, my money-maker), the shortest most efficient route and avoiding the gawd awful detour traffic. I plotted my course while sitting in line at the Starbucks drive-thru, which by the way, I was pleasantly surprise to see upon leaving the building of my first appointment. I plugged in my iPod, selected some old school music from my high school and college days, from the menu, my triple shot concoction in hand and began my cruise. Noting the speed limit as I traveled through the city streets, littered with traffic signals, fast food places, elementary schools, middle schools, clustered in close proximity to a high school, mom & pop dry cleaners, auto repair shops and banks.
As I drove through one neighborhood the small narrow road I once traveled and been improved to a 4 lane median divided highway. I was taken back to the day I got my first car for my birthday and driving this same road smiling like a Cheshire cat, on my way to visit my girlfriends who lived in a far away neighborhood, which wouldn’t be so far anymore. There where a couple more traffic signals, houses that I remember were large houses, didn’t look so big, as they once did. A few had been removed and replaced with 3 newer homes. Service stations with 4 pumps and a building had been replaced with multiple pump self-service stations, a couple of stations removed completely, left as vacant lots. As I approached the river that runs through a portion of the city, the older houses that I once dreamed of owning were still there and very well maintained thanks to the cities conservation. The streets were still lined with giant trees that gave the four lane undivided road a perfect canopy of shade. The bridge that crosses the river had been modernized with pedestrian sidewalks on both sides, graceful rod-iron railing lined both sides of the bridge adding an old world charm to a once concrete block that provided passage for cars only. The area I approached now was were I lived as a college student. Some really great memories from a not so good start in life. My first place, my first phone, utility and initiation into the real world.
My mother divorced my father when I was a toddler, she remarried the man she left my father for, but it was 7 years before she did so. My step father was a nice enough person, but he wasn’t my dad. I was an only child, my dad’s princess, the sun rose and set for me on my dad. By the time I was a senior in high school; my mother had another child, my brother who I loved dearly, my father had died leaving a trust and the relationship between my step-father and I was civil, but I was well over living under his roof. So, at 18, I moved out, much to my mother’s chagrin. She was loosing her cook, her house cleaner, her babysitter and driver. So, as a sophomore in college, I had my grandmother co-sign with me for a two bed room apartment. I quickly found a great roommate, who was from out of state and spent holidays at home.
As I crossed the bridge the first thing I notice was the fire station was brand new. Nice, I thought. But the area I saw after that was heartbreaking. Many of the houses were gone, the streets were now one-way and every intersection had a traffic light and the most shocking was the huge vacant lot where my first apartment build was. It was brand new when I moved in. I was the first tenant to occupy my second floor unit. But this was the neighborhood in general. Unfortunately despair had fallen upon it the years after I left and now it was consumed with cars and trucks as a cross over for connecting through the city with a series of one-way streets for flow. Gone was the small park, the basketball courts, the tennis courts and the benches.
I had many wonderful days in this area of the city. My place was a favorite for all night study sessions and a refuge for girlfriends having boyfriend troubles.
As we grow and change, so does the landscape. Childhood memories are enveloped in our minds and hearts, because as I reminded yesterday, what was there before can be gone tomorrow. I arrived at my destination, coffee cup empty but I was full of happy memories from a great childhood in spite of some rough spots. My decisions then have made me who I am today as I pound away on this keyboard.
It’s good to look back, it’s good remember and to switch gears for a moment.