Friday, January 15, 2010

Grown up Geography

barefoot girl Pictures, Images and Photos

I live in the city where I was born. I've lived other places. I've traveled. I've had opportunities to pick up and move. But... I love it here. Here is home.

The thing about geography is that it changes as our perceptions change. So even though I am familiar with the cities and towns that border my own, it wasn't always that way. As a child, those boundaries seemed mountainous and the drive to and from took forever.

Recently, in the car with my husband driving through a neighboring town I noticed a convenience store. Random, ordinary.

"Was that always there?" I asked.
"Yep." (Years after quitting smoking he can still be a crank- pot in the car)
"Did it used to be a WA-WA?"

The memory of WA WA perked him right up. He likes nostalgia. "Oh my God! You're right! It used to be a WA-WA. Remember those?"

I held my tongue. I didn't say "YES, I remember those. I just freaking asked you about them."

Instead I asked another question, my mind running back over geographic circles, what if what if what if? "Are there a bunch of condos down that road?" I asked.

He nodded. He didn't need to. The child in my mind was already screaming with delight. "You found it! You found it!"

So close? So close to where I live? I remember it taking HOURS to get there.

She used to come and visit in the summertime. My best friend. Her mother moved her to California and we held onto each other at the airport and had to be pried apart. We were six. Her dad stayed, so she came every year until we were tweens and California was way cooler.

The last summer she was here her dad lived in a condo that was all glammed out eighties style. White wall to wall carpet. A Wonder Woman pinball machine.

My mom took me there almost every day. Too much. Kids who've grown apart need some time to grow together. My mom foisted me there, easy free day camp, and my friend and I fought that whole summer.

We fought about who got the better plum. We fought about who got to read Judy Blume's "Forever" first (There was only one copy at the library) We fought about shampoo. (I liked Agree, she liked Pert Plus)

We went swimming in the ginormous pool everyday. And then we'd come out, blue lipped and starving, chlorine burning in our noses.

We wrapped Star Wars beach towels around ourselves and walked, silently, up the condo complex driveway and then out onto the main road, and then dashed across the street to the WA WA.

Burning feet met cool linoleum. The smells of newspapers and bread and cigars teasing us with adult pleasures. None of that mattered. All fighting stopped in the miracle that was the candy aisle.

Smarties and ring pops, Bugles and Lemon Heads. Bubble Yum. Red Hots, Boston Baked Beans. Hershey's Chocolate bars with almonds.

We laughed through those afternoons on sugar highs, drunk on swimming pool water. And then she was gone.

In the end, we both lost our way. Growing up was harder than expected.

But time stood still for me the moment I GPS'd my memory. Time stood still in the WA WA. And the geography of childhood brought her back.


  1. That's some powerful writing right there. You actually gave me chills, because so many similar memories came flooding back to me at once and I shuddered.

    My family lived about thirty miles away from my Godparent's house. We only went there a few times a year, but when we did my sibs and I would stay for a week. On the way to their house, cruising down the freeway, I could just barely reach high enough to see out the windows of our woody wagon. After what felt like an hour, which was actually twenty minutes, we would pass a barn that had the Loony Tunes painting on its side. Bugs, Daffy, Elmer, they were all there.

    Twenty years later, driving passed that barn - - even though bugs has faded to a faint image of himself - I still get uber vivid memories.

  2. Liked your words today, very good story.

  3. You have captured a wonderful memory, and provided great visuals.

  4. Wow. That was beautiful and sad. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Beautiful post, Suzanne. I went with you every step of the journey, so real, so I was drawn in.
    I've made a few of those journeys over the years since I moved away from my hometown. I find them bittersweet, but still sometimes can't resist the "memory lane" factor.

  6. This was fantastic! Thank you for sharing.

  7. 'I held my tongue. I didn't say "YES, I remember those. I just freaking asked you about them."'

    You didn't say anything at the time. You just waited to mention it as an amusing anecdote in a public forum... ;)

    You're right, though. Things do seem closer together when you're an adult. The world shrinks awfully quickly, doesn't it?

  8. I could feel the joy that you felt as i read this!


  9. Wawa is the fount of all bittersweet memories (more sweet than bitter, mostly).

  10. Love this. Wawa, Judy Blume, wall-to-wall carpet. Sigh.

  11. The moment I GPS'd my memory. That one needs to be in a book!

  12. I'm with Corey. That phrase was awesome, as was the whole post. You took us right there on that nostalgic journey with you. Thanks for the ride.

  13. "blue-lipped and starving..burning feet met cool linoleum" Then the adult smells of newspaper and cigars. These descriptions took me right there. Such a poignant memory of childhood. And, boy, growing up is way harder than we ever guess. Beautifully done.

  14. You're incredible, Suzanne. This is just gorgeous.

  15. I am guessing a WA-WA is like a corner store? It felt like one when I was reading through your story. And wow, what a story. So beautiful as always. I could smell the newspapers and cigars. I could feel the cool feet after the burning. Magic writing Suzanne. You introduced me to a neighborhood I wont ever see and I already miss it.

  16. Thanks ALL for your comments. Your validation is amazing. Funny, as I read over again I am reminded, especially at the beginning, of the narrations that John Boy used to give at the start of The Waltons. Hmmmmmm. I don't know how I feel about co-opting John-Boy's voice. I'll stew. :)

  17. OH, I love this post. How do you remember all those things from your past?

  18. beautiful

    and a wonder woman pinball machine
    and candy
    i dont know what else there is in life
    wake me up if you think of something

  19. Moving story. It makes me want to drive around my old stomping growns and see the swimming pool that I did one too many cannonballs in.

    Great stuff.

  20. Great details here. A Wonder Woman pinball machine. And the wall to wall white carpet. Lovely writing!

  21. I was transported right back there with you, with all my senses. Lovely piece.

  22. HI Suzanne,
    Just wanted you to know there's a surprise for you on my blog tomorrow.

  23. My husband does that too. It is really irritating. It is funny how those memories of long ago seem much closer now. Enjoyed the post.