My teen son and I visited my mother in California. While there, I wanted to swing by my childhood home to check it out. For old times’ sake. My mother doesn’t live there anymore.
We drove down the quiet, tree-lined street. Everything was still the same, yet so different. The small, tidy homes with the small, tidy yards. Family homes.
My childhood home was barely recognizable. The new owners had doubled its size by adding a second story. What was wrong with my comfy, two-bedroom home? It was just perfect for my mother and me. Or a hobbit.
The palm tree in the front yard was gone. The tree had helped mark our tucked-in house. “When you see the palm tree? That’s my house.”
The palm tree was also a sign that we lived in California, welcoming guests from the Midwest–my Grandmother–who would ooh and ah at our weather and tropical plantings.
I lived in that home from ages 9 to 18.
It was a neighborhood of young families and old people.
The neighbor kids and I ran amuck. Racing throuh neighbors’ yards, playing Nerf football in the street, rollerskating, hiding-and-seeking at night.
It was a safe town, nestled, protected. It was a town where you let your children walk to the 7-Eleven to buy Slurpees. It was a town where kids could trick-or-treat in packs, without their parents’ hovering.
My street looked the same. And I’ve heard the neighborhood and town are still safe. There were Christmas lights around the windows, trikes in the front yards.
But the old people I knew, are long gone. And the parents I knew, are now old. The then children now have their own families. And have moved on. Everything has changed.
Visiting my old street made me sad. I am no longer part of that neighborhood. But the neighborhood is part of me. Like the deep roots of my palm tree, most of my childhood is rooted there.