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A Perfectly Ordinary Subdivision

It was a perfectly ordinary subdivision of perfectly ordinary houses built in the 1950s and 60s, brick houses with low roofs and deep front yards, three bedrooms and two ceramic-tiled bathrooms, appliances that were avocado or harvest gold.  The people that lived in those houses were ordinary people – teachers and insurance agents, nurses and car salesmen, children who took piano lessons and spent their summers playing baseball on Jaycee Field.  

It is still a perfectly ordinary subdivision, but the people I knew who lived there – the Kaneys, the Millers, the Murrays, the Grays – are long gone.  The station wagons and tank-like sedans that ferried my friends to Girl Scouts and football practice and band practice and  MYF have been replaced by Priuses and pick-up trucks with fraternity bumper stickers.

There are fewer children playing in the front yards.  Most of the carports have been closed in to make room for more renters and most of the azaleas need pruning.  Most of the shutters could use a new coat of paint and at least a couple of the mailboxes could use straightening.  

On occasion, I still go there, this place that holds so many memories.  I walk along the sidewalk-less roads and  remind myself who lived where, how many siblings they had, their parents’ names.  Nearly always I will pass a landscaping company’s trailer and see a zero turn mower driven by a man wearing earphones.  Never do I pass someone’s father or teen-aged brother pushing a Briggs and Stratton.  It makes me wonder why I keep going back.

There is, though, the pond.  Even with the new benches and walking path and charming arched bridge, it is still familiar.  I can easily see me and my friends  standing under a tree within sight of the camellias getting yearbook photos made.  I can still see the guys playing Frisbee.  I can still see us girls, sleeping bags dangling over our shoulders, piling into one of the houses where we will spend the night laughing at everything and without a reason in the world to do anything else.  

Not long ago, I was walking around the pond and came up on a young man fishing.  He paused in his casting and turned to smile and say hello.  

“Caught anything?” I asked in accordance with standard southern protocol.

“Not yet.”

“Good luck,” I offered, walking on into the flock of Canada geese who are always patrolling.

The fisherman was still there when I came back around.  “You just missed it!” he called out joyously as I approached.  “I got one!”

As dear as memories are, too much remembering leaves one at the risk of wistfulness and, in the flash of the fisherman’s smile, my wistfulness fell away.  My pop-your-wrist Polaroid image faded and was replaced with a PNG digital, what was superseded by what is. That is, of course, the way of life, of time.

“Congratulations!” I called out and meant it.  

We had our 50th high school reunion not long ago and I pleased myself to no end by recognizing  nearly everyone without reading their nametags.  We pooled our collective memories to tell stories.  We looked at photos of grandchildren who, if we squinted our eyes, looked a little like the people we used to be.  We told stories and relived moments and – Lord, help us! – sang the alma mater.  

This is what I knew at the end of the night: I like these people, the ones with slower steps and thicker middles and less hair, more than I liked the people they used to be.  And what I was thinking as I left the fisherman at the pond is that it is possible that I may just learn to like this neighborhood, with its own version of slower steps, thicker middle, and less hair, more than the neighborhood it used to be.  

Not likely, but possible.  And that is enough to keep me going back.

Copyright 2024

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