Memories of 'home' prove to be a matter of perspective
Monday, October 21, 2013 4:07 AM
I told my parents I would walk. We were going to visit my uncle and aunt's place. They lived on the road my siblings and I grew up on. My siblings had lived there for their entire grade school years, whereas I had only lived there for 14 years or so. I was returning to the place of my youth.
What a strange opportunity, I thought to myself. I wondered how I would react, seeing the yard, house and forest in which I had spent so much of my young life. I had experiences of this nature before.
While visiting my hometown of Randall, Minn., several years ago, my family had driven out of their way to see what had happened to the property since we left. We had driven past much too quickly, but I recall thinking at that time: everything seems smaller.
It's a phenomenon that I can't quite explain. I try to simplify it by using the word perspective. For example, the driveway and streets would appear longer when I was younger because it took longer for me to walk down them since I was shorter. However, now that I'm somewhat taller, the streets seem shorter because I take longer strides. If I haven't walked a certain road for a long time, the most recent experience will clash with the memory.
Interesting, isn't it?
Our brains don't always update memories with our newest slant or take on things. Sometimes, we remember experiences with the original perspective with which we first processed them. My political, religious and ideological views have changed over the years, but I still am able to recall experiences using the same (or so I think) perspective I had at that time. I don't think this holds true for every memory, but for many of them it does.
So, from my memory I recalled the many times I had walked, ran and ridden down the residential street past my house. The evergreen trees and sumac across the road were clumped together in groves though open portions of the plot of land existed. In the fall, the colors were brilliant, especially when the sun was at a 30-degree angle from the horizon and the sky was perfectly clear and blue. The garden running to the ditch by the road would have been mostly cleared of its tomato and pepper plants. Pine needles, burnt orange in color, lined the streets, driveways, and gave each flowerbed an overly-mulched look. The tops of the pine trees, swaying slightly in the autumn breeze, would hypnotize any ponderous soul who looked at them too long. They reached toward the sky, pillars of green amongst the perpetually color-volatile deciduous.
The memories came flooding back and as I climbed into the car with my parents, I could not help but feel overly nostalgic as we drove toward Randall. My mom said she would join me. Walking that is. I had declared my intent to get out of the car at the base of the hill leading up to the street of my childhood. This hill had intimidated me for years as a young boy on a Huffy bicycle. Going down the slope was so carefree and I had been able to coast most of the way to church. However, riding back up it only induced frustration and thoughts of dry, hot and uncomfortable deserts. Or something like that.
I almost missed it. "Hey!" I yelled in order to get my dad to stop. We were already a third of the way up the hill. I got out. There it was, the new housing development that blasphemed my memories of nature and trees in that spot when I was younger. I started up the hill, glancing over my right shoulder to see if our old neighbors had again put out their broom-riding-witch-crashing-into-the-post-Halloween decoration. They had not. I wondered if they would still give me a can of pop and king size candy bars.
As I expected, my memories of the hill clashed with my current experience. I ascended it with ease. At the top, I turned around and looked down. My eyes focused on a moving object a mile away: a train and just one of over a hundred every day. The tracks marked the point where the road ended. In between lay asphalt, a church, a ball field, a playground and years of memories.
We visited my aunt and uncle and left three hours later. It seemed wrong and right at the same time. Maybe that was just the nostalgia kicking in.