It’s odd to be back in the old haunts – not that the neighborhood is really the same. The windows of what had been corner grocery stores – and there were many then – are now covered with beautiful drapes pulled back to reveal chic tea shops or coffeehouses. The places where janitors and waitresses raised their families are now filled with 30-something techies who have lots of money and have raised rates to the point where no ordinary working stiff could possibly afford to live here. But many of the houses have the same bay windows, the J-Church streetcar still clangs by, and on a sunny day like today it still feels good to be here. I find myself looking carefully at the faces of old people walking by. Did I know them back in the day? Would they recognize the names of me or my parents or my sisters?
The shape of the hills is still in my bones. Walking the dog this morning past the house where I lived from the time I was three until I was 14, I was caught by the sight of nasturtiums growing in the garden. Could they be the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren of those my Mom planted?
On this sunny morning, I see ghosts from my childhood. All those life loving people who are now dead and gone: My parents who had the wisdom to bring us to this place; Lois Kramer and her plaid wallpaper and placemats and infectious Irish laugh; Bill Bergeron and his cement mixer which he ran at 6AM one day making my normally cheerful dad yell; Doug Cline and his parrot Monty and priceless collections that the Smithsonian took when he died; Margaret dePatta and beautiful tiny home she designed and built with her Bauhaus artists eye; the Wertheimers who lost their baby to crib death; Rebecca White-Eagle who developed breasts too early; Leola King the Barbeque Queen and the husband who served her coffee in bed; my friend Pete’s Mom who worked as a waitress behind the counter at Woolworths; Dorothy T’s Mom who beat Dorothy with a belt; the crazy old skinny woman who lived two doors away and came and ironed for my Mom sometimes just because Mama felt sorry for her.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude and longing.