The old hood.
When I lived there there were kids in every house. There were three in this one, three in the one to the east and three in ours, to the west. There were kids everywhere, all the time, jumping on trampolines, driving go-carts, swimming in our pool and doing, I’m sure, a bunch of things we never heard about. It’s quiet there now, in the enormous east house lives a woman, alone. In this one a retired couple, part-time and in what was ours, Coco, part-time, and her dad.
It’s funny how a neighborhood changes.
The last time I was inside this house the folks there had gotten divorced and the woman, my friend, was in love with a man who is now dead. He died very suddenly, a handful of years ago, had a heart attack and fell off his front porch. On my last day in this house my friend had a birthday lunch for me and the man I was dating. Afterwards the man who is now dead said, “he really loves her,” about my boyfriend and me. It was so nice that he could see that; I loved that he had such a tender heart. It’s a good final memory to have of this house.
Recently I drove the streets in the little neighborhood where I grew up. The houses looked smaller, though I am no larger now than I was as a teen when I lived there. There is a funny feeling that comes with going back to a place you once lived, seeing how it’s doing without you. To have played in the yards and walked the roads, ridden bikes, trick-or-treated, shared meals with the neighbors.
We live in houses in neighborhoods with people and they hold, forever, the story of who we were and, to a degree, are. The buildings, sturdy caretakers of the memories we leave. I remember so clearly all the kids, there were so many kids. It’s strange how quiet those neighborhoods are now. Where are the kids? Montreal and Salt Lake City, Montana and Tahoe, Burlington.
The other day I was having breakfast in a diner in my hometown and I said hi to the young family beside me. The dad turned out to be one of my younger brother’s friends—we grew up on the same street. He and his wife had just moved back to town to raise their little guy. It was a funny moment of happy familiarity with someone who is mostly a stranger. We bonded immediately, members of the Eureka Avenue gang.
It was nice, that feeling, of having shared parts of a childhood, all of the outdoor games and bus stop business. It is nice, to have belonged to a time and a place that holds meaning and that you can kind of trip over it and find it again, in an encounter with a person sitting beside you in a diner on a plain old weekday morning.