I traveled through time today. I drove down familiar streets with hazy names (I never bothered to memorize street names) and saw a few of the places that I called home.
I do not pull the “I remember when…” routine. I have eidetic memory as it concerns places and situations. I had total recall of my Aunt’s house, to include where she kept things in her cupboards, when I visited Ohio for my cousin’s wedding; my last Ohio trip was when I was 12, for my Nonna’s funeral.
My memory is a blessing and a curse. I can not recall what I ate this morning (because I did not really care) nor do events flow like chapters in a book unless I choose to look back on that memory. My medications have dampened some of my recall ability, however I do have periods where my mind visits upon a stressful moment in life and, once that memory returns, I relive it as if it were fresh.
I left Penrose Hospital around 2 PM. Mum was waiting to have her wound attended to (she would have gone home by now but for an infection along her suture line. The surgical site was not cleaned until days after the procedure and, much to my dismay, the infection traveled inward. She is on a “pump” and will remain in the hospital until at least Monday. Her PICC is out, she is on solid foods, she can clean her body after a BM or urination and she is back to her old self – feisty, amusing, intelligent and rather bored by her surroundings. She has not smoked a cigarette in over ten days. I’m so proud of her!)
I opted to head south on Weber St. in order to pass by one of my old haunts. My parents’ home sat on the corner of Weber and Caramillo. It’s a lovely four-square replete with porch and sunroom. The back yard was a beautiful marriage of flagstone and hundred-year-old trees. The new owners have painted the home a brighter shade of blue, put in a large rod-iron fence, and removed the dog run. It does look nice but it just isn’t the same.
I was married at that house. I drove by slowly, allowing only a few minutes of staring. In that instant, my mind stripped away the cheap plastic children’s play set. Better Half stood underneath the maple tree, so handsome. Dad and I left the front porch and made our way to the yard, my train (intended for a romantic chapel) bouncing over the flagstone and pebbles. We entertained our guests in that small yard. Mum’s cooking groaned on the buffet tables inside the house and our guests contentedly rubbed their bellies as they pushed back their chairs outside. Our wedding was very simple and very private.
I passed Weber and traveled my ancient path towards Royer. Here is where I spent my late teen and early twenties years. As I turned down the street, bittersweet memories poured forth. My hands gripped the steering wheel; I expected the ghosts of my past to rush out at me.
Monument St. has an old (crumbling!) house that Better Half and I rented shortly before our marriage. It was a dump but it was our first house together. I barely looked at it. The damn thing leaked, the landlord never fixed anything, our bed didn’t fit in the stairwell, and Better Half and I worked different shifts and never saw each other. There were funny memories attached to this place: Better Half’s first attempt to impress my parents (the chicken and shrimp were nearly raw!) and our picnic table fiasco.
I headed further down Royer and caught site of the house that shaped me. Someone divided the building into three apartments. I lived in all three over a period of time during my young adult years.
I am no longer in my late 30’s. I am nineteen and my hair is shaved on the sides. I wear dark sunglasses, a leather biker jacket and an attitude. I am driving an old Chevy Nova (V-8 and untouchable) and a LoA tape blares. I chew on my Marlboro filter as I park. The engine cuts off and Julie pokes her head out of the top window. “Coffee,” she says.
The moment passes. There is now cheap fencing partially surrounding the property. The house appears to be vacant. Rusty, my fellow paleontological junkie, has moved to WY and works at a museum as curator. Julie, my best friend for over a decade, is MIA and I don’t feel any loss – she tried to screw me over. Scott and Tomy are not there to share the front porch with us. Rhonda and Nancy moved on ages ago. You can’t go back in time. You can only relive a moment.
I chose to relive the moments that Jeff and I shared there: Sunday Morning Coffee, a bedroom window that flooded the basement when it rained, tearing up a waterbed simply because Waterman was on my last nerve, a beautiful gold claddagh that no longer fits my finger and a whale pendant with a dangling crystal. (I love cetaceans. Pity that they became a WT fad! I refuse to wear any of my jewelry unless it drops out of fashion. The same goes for any jewelry depicting dinosaurs, wolves or crows. I appreciated these creatures’ beauty long before Brittany, Jennifer, Kayla and Crissy came along and embraced them as the symbol of their post-virginal teenage feminine ilk. I’m sorry if that sounds a touch cynical but I really do not have respect for the average American “tee hee” teenager. I hated my own teenage peer group.)
T&L Market was holding strong. This neighborhood store has been a fixture since 1900. Lisa (the L in T&L) still manned the counter. We chatted briefly, reliving a few neighborhood memories. I felt a sad twinge: this is where I would walk with Julie’s kids, Meghan and Bobby. I’d buy them a candy bar. I helped raise those children, treating them as if they were my own. I was “dad” to them. We’d conduct science experiments in the kitchen, play football in the street, and read stories before bed. I build Bobby a bike after his was stolen. I spent hours watching Meghan play “Little Mermaid” in the living room. Julie cut me out of their lives when I became engaged to Better Half. She was jealous of our relationship.
I swept past our house on Parkridge. I did not recognize it but Better Half told me this evening that I should look for the Japanese cherry tree that we planted when we moved in. I think that I’ll swing by there again and try to take a picture (if the tree is still there.)
Colorado Springs has a very pretty veneer to it. It attempts to promote itself as sophisticated. It is still the same yokel town that I recall but now it hides behind its window dressing. I supposed that it believes the window dressing is an accurate reflection of what it is. Consider the dog and his bone. He crosses the bridge and sees a dog with a bone rippling in the water. He wants both bones and so he barks, dropping his bone. Colorado Springs wants what simply isn’t. It compares itself to other places and attempts to steal away their thunder. How sad that this city loses what is precious during its attempt to be what it can’t.