Friday, January 15, 2010
Grown up Geography
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.