What happens when a middle-aged man visits his old stomping grounds? Recently, I did just that. When I do this, it is a way to see where I started my life and gauge the progression of where I am today. In many ways, it’s like the ultimate before and after.
What triggered this was a conversation I had the other day with someone who grew up in the same neighborhood as me. It didn’t take us long at all to start down that long winding road leading us back to the way our neighborhood used to be. One thing lead to another with each of us almost simultaneously citing things that only someone who grew up there would remember. I knew a road trip was on the horizon.
The modest brick house sitting proudly on a hill still looks good. It was a house filled with love. Something was always cooking in our kitchen and everyone was always welcome to visit. We didn’t have a lot, but what we did have, we were willing to share.
Driving through the neighborhood where I was raised flooded my mind with memories. Since I grew up in Macon, anytime I want to revisit my past, it’s only a short drive to the south side of town. Revisiting my past always evokes many things. The first thing I always notice is how small everything seems compared to how I remember it. Even though some parts of the landscape have changed, what changes more as we age is our perspective of it.
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When I was younger, I often wished I had a crystal ball that would tell me about the future. Where would I live when I was older? Would I be healthy and strong? What would I do to make a living? I had a lot of questions to ask that magical ball! Of course, such a ball doesn’t exist. Instead, we have to wait to find all the answers in the process of living.
The first place I went on my journey back was the house where I lived from the time I was a preteen until I went away to college. The modest brick house sitting proudly on a hill still looks good. It was a house filled with love. Something was always cooking in our kitchen and everyone was always welcome to visit. We didn’t have a lot, but what we did have, we were willing to share.
Many hours were spent on the front porch rocking away the days. Ice cream was churned there while hamburgers and steaks grilled. Fresh-caught fish were cleaned and peas shelled. I’ve lost count of just how many pear preserves daddy made on that porch using his propane gas-fueled burner and huge galvanized pot.
My journey continued even further back in time by driving just a few blocks to the house I lived in from birth until I was a preteen. Although it is a much smaller house than the other one, it was still filled to the brim with memories. I remember playing on every inch of that yard, which appears to have shrunk over time. My tree house in the back yard has long been gone but the pecan tree that once held it is still there and appeared too small to have done the job.
Looking at the single carport beside the house, I remembered a lively hotdog eating contest under it with other neighborhood kids. I also remembered a scared pregnant cat climbing to the top of a pine tree and giving birth from up there. In my mind, I can still see Mother standing at the base of the tree and catching the newborn kittens in a soft towel.
Driving on the same roads where we used to walk and ride our bikes offered another memory at every turn. I stopped briefly at the church we attended every time the doors were open and was sad to see most of it is now gone. Its sign remains at the front of the property and I immediately went back to the times we ran back and forth to that sign after church until we were out of breath and sweaty.
Even though memories are stored somewhere in our minds, nothing prompts them to come out as quickly as actually visiting the places where they happened. If possible, it’s good to go back to where we were raised because these places played an integral part in who we are today.
Even though there is no crystal ball to see the future, we do have ways to visit with our past. I’m so glad I bumped into that former neighbor the other day. She reminded me of my growing up years and that made me smile.
MORE WITH MARK
It’s time to think pink! The Cherry Blossom Festival is back and so is Mark! Join him as he coordinates and hosts the annual fashion show on March 30 at the Anderson Conference Center. Visit cherryblossom.com for details about the fashion show and all of the other festivities. Call 478-301-5470 for tickets.
Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email email@example.com; follow him at instagram.com/markcreates; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.