My wife and I were out and about last weekend, running some errands, paying some bills, doing a little shopping. Just the normal mundane activities that nobody ever pays attention to, but are necessary to keep a house hold running.
First, I must explain that we live just outside the city limit sign of my hometown, and most of our shopping and errands were in that town. Over the years, the town has grown, and there are now almost a quarter million people there, where there was only about 60,000 there when I was born.
We were making our rounds and I realized that I was passing the street that we had lived on until I was about 12, and I made a quick turn so that I could cruise by and see the first house that I had ever lived in.
I slowed as we passed by, and noted to my wife that the old Silver Leaf Maple that my dad had planted must have finally died, because it was no longer in the yard.
My daughter was with us, and I, as us old folks will do, started cruising around the old neighborhood, pointing things out. There's where a child hood friend had lived. There was the house where my mother's best friend, who baby sat us sometimes, had lived. There was the house that my aunt and uncle had rented and lived in for a year, while he looked for work after he came home from Vietnam. There was the house that had been built when Mr. Moore's house had burned down. There was Mrs. Hampton's house. Hers was the first yard I ever mowed for money.
I didn't really decide to, but I ended up tooling around town, retracing my childhood, and continuing to point out the landmarks to my wife and daughter, telling them little anecdotes and stories about those times.
There was the elementary school where I got into my first fight, and Dad had gotten mad and gone to speak to the principal because I got paddled even though I didn't throw the first punch.
There was the road where the creek (now long since rerouted into drainage conduit under the road, I guess) used to go under. We used to go there and catch "crawdads" under the little bridge that used to be there.
There is the golf course they put in when they finally got that farmer to sell out. In high school, we used to go out to the back side of his land, and park. (Those of you of a certain age will know about that)
There is the soccer field that they built. Before that, it was just a big old field where we used to take our dogs and let them run and play in the creek.
This 4 lane road we are on used to be a little black top road, and all these houses used to be fields.
There's where Dad's shop was. Right next to it was a Five and Dime, and then a Drug Store. On the other side was a little department store where we used to buy Dad's ties. We used to go to the drug store and drink ice cream sodas or chocolate Cokes. (Some of you might remember cherry Cokes and chocolate Cokes, too.) And they had the best hamburgers there that I think I have ever eaten.
Across the street from Daddy's store is where the theater was. Daddy used to pick us up after school on Wednesdays and give us a quarter to go to the movies. On Wednesdays, you could get a ticket and a Coke for a quarter. Over there there used to be Jone's Hardware Store, and a little further down had been White's Auto (Kind of like Western Auto, only independently owned). Cannon's Dry Goods used to be between them.
There's where I played little league. There's where Daddy used to buy cars. There's where the Piggly-Wiggly used to be. (Some of you might remember Piggly-Wiggly, too.) There was a Laundromat next to it where we did our wash that time the washing machine broke.
I drove through town, pointing out all of these banal little sights and memories, seeing for the first time in a long time how much the town had grown, and how much it had changed.
There's not much retail down on the square anymore. The building where my Dad's shop was is boarded up and empty, and those that are occupied look like flea market booths, just used furniture and junk shops. There's not a Five and Dime, or department store, or drug store anymore. No theater either.
I left the downtown area, and drove home on the big broad 4 lane roads, passing Starbucks, McDonalds, Wendy's, Kohl's and Walmart along the way.
Now that I think about it, I guess it's not really my home town, anymore.