I spent this past weekend at my parents' house taking care of their dog while they were out of town. The dog can't go to a kennel for reasons I won't go into (it's another whole post in itself), but she's a sweet dog, albeit a bit crazy.
My parents still live in the house where I grew up, and by that I mean spent every year of my life there until the age of 18. I've been gone now for 12 years (with a minor setback), yet when I'm there, it's as if I never left. There are so many memories. I had my first kiss on the front porch, flipped over the handlebars of my bike and broke my thumb in the back yard, laid in bed with Mom and watched TV at night and gossiped about boys and friends, had friends spend the night on the sofa bed in the basement, admired my older sisters when they still lived in the basement, set up massive little people worlds with my younger sister and played countless games of make believe, kicked her ass in Mario Cart on the Super Nintendo, laughed hysterically with my Mom when the ump said 'FOUL BALL' while playing baseball on the Atari, practised catching and hitting balls with my Dad (and coach) in the backyard, waited for Dad to get home every night with my younger sister, punched a hole in the wall of the staircase, cried many tears and shared many hugs. I could go on and on. I was a very lucky girl - I had a great childhood.
I took the dog for a walk around the loop behind my parents' house, the loop that circles the neighborhood pool (a place I went to every day, every summer as a kid, and caused my share of trouble). I passed by so many homes with even more memories. As kids, we ran wild all hours of the day, and even into the evening. We knew all the kids in the neighborhood. A kid could be a huge nerd at school, but during the summers, we were all equals. Summers for me were magical like that. I had my school friends, and separately, my summer friends (though there were a few overlaps).
Anyway, on my walk, it occurred to me how few of those houses had any connection to me now, yet I knew them intimately. I'd been in every single room, yet strangers were there now, or people who wouldn't probably recognize me at all after so many years.
I started typing out a list of my memories of the houses and the people who live(d) there, but really, you don't care about that. It's enough for me to think again about all of those memories. To wonder what happened to some of my best friends at the time, what became of their families. Some I know about, some will be lost forever.
It's enough to think about those kids and that I'll probably never have closer friends. They knew everything about me, saw me at my best, and at my worst. We learned valuable life lessons together, and shared so many 'firsts'.
It's impossible to be in my old neighborhood and not remember the time we passed out in the pool parking lot and went to swim practice afterwards after sneaking out of one of the girls' houses, driving around with the cute lifeguard in his Honda CRX, getting a ride to school with Dinky (one of the nerdy boys) when my parents grounded me from the car my junior year and forced me to ride the bus (the horror!), hoofing every square inch of the neighborhood on Halloween and getting a pillowcase full of candy, playing flashlight tag in the gloaming hour of warm, summer evenings full of fireflies, winning first place in the final freestyle race of summer swim league and eating so much lik-m-aid it made us sick, launching water balloons from the deck of a boy who'd survived leukemia onto the unsuspecting pool patrons nearby - really, the list is endless. I could go on forever.
I was really struck though by the house of a family I'd known because one of their sons was best friends with the little brother of my best friend. Their house is visible from my parents' backyard. The entire family died of carbon dioxide poisoning. I was living in Texas when it happened, and hadn't ever really gotten the chance to look at that house and really think about it. I saw a car sitting in the driveway. Do the current owners know what happened? Does it, or did it, disturb them? How depressing. He was a good boy, a smart boy. And he and my friend's little brother used to chant 'duh-duh-duh-duh-duh, cha-cha-cha-cha-chicken' at us all the time. I don't know why. They were odd kids. It's surreal, having such a strong memory of the boys at that age, chanting that irritating ditty, yet one of them is dead.
Kind of like my childhood memories. They're so vivid, some of them anyway, yet they're as good as dead. I can't have them back. I'll never be that naive, innocent child again. I miss those days, but am now starting to appreciate the person I've become. I guess I'm beginning to just now understand that it's time to be an adult, and moreover, like being an adult. Perhaps this is why I was able to really take in all of those memories, to separate myself from them.
Or maybe the dog woke me up at 7 for a walk and in my near-sleepwalking state everything seemed surreal. Whatever.