I drove by the old house in Deer Run tonight. It holds a lot of memories, of when it belonged to my grandmother and then when it belonged to my cousins, aunt and uncle. I don’t remember my age exactly at all of those different times, but I know I was young. They were some of my first memories in fact. I don’t remember a lot of things from my childhood. I attribute that mostly to a good childhood, so good that days were all equally enjoyable with nothing outstandingly harmful or outstandingly surprising. That may be totally off however and I may just suffer from a bad long-term memory, the signs of which I am denying just by writing this.
That said, I do have very fond and clear memories of the house in Deer Run near Devil’s Millhopper here in Gainesville, Florida. I had Christmases there with my grandmother as the host, and my family and extended family as guests. We would eat wonderful dinners together, with all the children eating separately at a smaller table some distance from the glass tabletop and fine cloth where our parents ate. We kids would play upstairs in this little nook of a loft which overlooked the living room. A very narrow winding black metal spiral staircase went up right through the floor so that you had to be rather small to get up there anyway. When my grandmother owned the house we played Nintendo up there, with enough room for the television, pillows to lay on and only a few stuffed animals and random toys to fill in the spaces. There was a small wooden bench built into the way along the side of the loft overlooking the living room, the kind of bench that opened up so you could put things inside it. If you stood up on it and looked over the railing in fact you could throw things over into the living room, be it pillows, footballs or small children. We did enough of these things to break a few items, but luckily we never from any humans.
As I creeped by in the car, I imagined playing outside. So of my fondest memories are of the trees and the grass and the openness that existed all around the house before my aunt, uncle and the neighbors began to put up fences. There was so much more freedom, openness and friendship before the fences were up. Maybe it just seemed that way though, I was probably still using a blanky. Yes, I think I definitely was at that point. We would play games outside like tackle football, smear the queer, tag and hide and seek. We would hunt for Easter eggs in the spring and then we would hunt with super soakers in the summer. There were so many neat things about that house that I can’t forget, but that I am reminded of most when I see it again. To see the leaves fall and imagine laying underneath them again, suspended by blades of grass that felt the size of fingers, to jump in piles of leaves, to run and try not to step out of bounds by falling off the curb into the street. Those are my memories and that house is definitely one of my happy places.
When I stepped here into this house after getting out of my car, two thoughts hit me.
First of all, this will be a memory soon. My grandparents, extended family, then close family, then friends and soon my family will all past through and out of this life with me. I will remember the days that I sat in this house and celebrated Christmas, played video games, talked with my grandparents, ate breakfast, thanksgiving dinner, dessert and big fat turkeys. I will drive by the front of this house and sigh, much older myself and maybe with a family of my own. My life now will be a memory just as much as my childhood is to me now.
Secondly, I am part of different children’s’ memories right now. My brother is 9 years old and my sister is 17. There isn’t much hope for my sister. She’s old now, much older than my brother, and she is getting pretty set into her role as an adult (a young one like me more specifically). And although I am a part of her childhood memories still now, it is much easier to see the impact I am having on my brother. Or rather, it is easier to imagine it. I have a hard time looking at him like myself at that age. When I was 9, heading into 5th grade, the world was crazy and I was already grown up. I was as big as I was ever going to get and I had things pretty much figured out. The school gig was being pretty casual, I knew what was happening, girls were girls, boys were boys, I was coming up as the next Captain of the Safety Patrol, heading out to the gifted program every Tuesday at a different school, beginning to learn how to work computers and the new thing called the internet and all and all, I was a genius who brought his new Kleenex box every August, new Crayola colored pencils every other August and a new pair of shoes that were getting about a size bigger every year. I didn’t have any big kids around other than the 6th graders who seemed humongous, not to mention the middle schoolers. I never met any high schoolers and didn’t even think about college, ever. I had my world and that was that. For me now, the words middle schoolers mean small kids. Elementary school kids are small kids too. High school kids are bigger kids, but still uneducated for the most part, and college kids are definitely still called kids, though I call some of them young adults with only slight reservation. Where is my perspective even close to that of my brother? How I wish it could be some times, I think I would be nicer to him. Too often I think I’m just another dad, getting older myself and loving it too much usually, ready to be like my dad in more ways than one. So then my brother comes along and bam, I am starting to talk like my dad. I think it’s good for my friends, who need a kick sometimes, but for my brother I think it’s unfair. I want to think harder about what I would have wanted if I had an older brother at his age. I want to think about it, start to figure it out and then begin to apply it to make it happen. These are his memories and heaven knows how much I cherish mine.