|Our lovely Texas front lawn, August 1979. And me.|
Whenever we stayed with our grandparents I'd sleep in my aunt Sue's old room, which by that time was sort of Grandpa's supplementary closet. His pressed shirts hung on the closet door and his cufflinks and WWII memorabilia were in a jewelry box on the dresser and you don't even want to know what happened the first time I found a swastika in there and thought for .025 seconds that my grandpa was a secret Nazi. (He very much wasn't. He fought in Europe AGAINST the Nazis, is all.)
There was no air conditioning in Grandma and Grandpa's house so in the summer of 1979 the windows were thrown open and as I lay in my aunt's old bed by the window at night I could hear train whistles and traffic and the sounds of the city. My dad said it took him years to be able to get a good night's sleep without all that noise around, this being the house in which he grew up. It's funny how things stay with you.
I'm not sure how long we were at Grandma and Grandpa's house before Mom and Dad came back -- no more than a week or two, I don't think -- and I don't remember much about the weeks before we left except that it was so sad saying goodbye to everyone and so exciting to think that we might see actual cowboys in our new home state. But we made our farewells and then we were off: two adults, two kids, a dog, two gerbils, a parakeet and a buttload of houseplants stuffed into a van driving from Ohio to Texas in August with no air conditioning. Good times, man. I still have a twitch.
We got here ahead of the moving truck (my dad's company was moving us) so we lived in a Howard Johnson's for a few days. And then we moved into our new house. And replanted the entire lawn. And stuff like that.
A few days later I started eighth grade at a school where all the kids who would have been bully magnets at my old school were suddenly the popular kids, and thus my culture shock was complete, like having the Sunday comics be all wrong wasn't bad enough (no Gasoline Alley? WTF?!). My parents had inexplicably signed me up for both drama class and basketball at my new school; I can only assume jetlag and/or rather a lot of Coors led to that decision. I enjoyed the former (drama, not jetlag) and loathed the latter (basketball, not Coors)(although ... that, too) and made some friends and somehow muddled through. And got straight A's on my report card for the first time in my life.
And the longer we lived here the weirder it felt going back to Ohio every summer to see that something had been built, something had been torn down, someone had died, someone had been born (I have at least twice the number of cousins now that I had in August 1979) and Arthur Treacher's was still in business. And there was the park where my brother fell on the teeter-totters and bit off part of his tongue, and there was my old school, and there was that place with the snapping turtles, and that's where Aunt Mariann used to work. And here's the church where we got married. And there's the hospital where you were born. And that was Mother Goose Land, and that was Meyers Lake, and that's where your grandparents are buried.
A lot has changed in both places in the past 34 years. We can get Smucker's and Hostess and even Clark bars down here now, but there's still no decent broasted chicken south of the Ohio River. And no Arthur Treacher's. And no rattlesnake-free woods for kids to run around in barefoot. And no cousins.
There's decent Tex-Mex food in my hometown now, and most of the chain stores I'm familiar with from down here are up there, too, but business signs sporting the last names of kids I grew up with are fading from the landscape. The houses we used to live in have all the wrong trees out front. Someone else lives in my grandparents' house now. Someone else listens to those trains at night.
It's weird to think that most of my memories of my hometown are crammed into a slightly less than 13-year period. More like ten years, really, if you discount the baby/toddler years. Now that I'm a parent myself, not to mention an old middle-aged lady, I know how short a period of time that is. Ein Augenblick. I've got underwear older than that.
|My brother and me and our cousin Steve on Grandma and Grandpa's front porch. August 1979.|
They say you can't go home again, but that's okay. I'm already here.