The Past is a Funny Thing

Have you ever noticed how it’s never raining in your memories of summer? I don’t think I have a single memory of it ever raining back on Fox Shores Drive. I’m sure it did but some things just have a way of disappearing into history without much fanfare – the Allied invasion of southern France in August of 1944, the success of Don Coryell’s Cardinals in the mid-70’s, Val Kilmer.

To prove to the girls that the stories I tell are indeed true, I took the opportunity to show them a few places from my history. We drove out to visit a couple of my good buddies from high school last weekend. While we were there I checked out two of the houses I lived in growing up. Not many people can say this but by the time I was 16 I had lived in 4 different states and 5 different houses. Six if you count the one we rented for a few months in the summer of ’86.

Anyway, I took the opportunity to take the girls and Mom past not only the houses but also my old grade school. If memory serves, and it might not since gray hairs are becoming more common on my head than pork-barrel spending in a federal stimulus bill, it’s been 26 years since I’ve been at my grade school. Last time I was there we were walking around in our parachute pants singing “Ghostbusters.”

Ray Parker, Jr. aside, the girls weren’t nearly as interested as I hoped. Well maybe Riley was because she’s just like me and it interesting to her to actually see history and hear the stories that go along with it.

“Right there is my 4th grade classroom. We used to line up before school right here. Out in that field over there we played ‘Kill the Guy with the Ball until the nuns shut us down.’”

“Great Dad. Can we eat lunch now?”

“Nope. Let’s take some pictures.”

“Awwww…why…it’s hot…”

What happens to your spatial perception between childhood and adulthood? Between being a kid and being a grown-up? The whole place seemed so much bigger back when disco ruled the world. But aside from a lot more landscaping, the building looks the same. Which is kinda nice.

Since that wasn’t nearly enough nostalgia, we drove by the house we moved into in December of ’77. Lived there until the summer of ’84. Here’s a pic.

“Dad is this where you played Ghost in the Graveyard?”

“This is the place Kinsey.”

“Wow. It looks like it might be scary at night.”

“Yeah, if scary means awesome!”

Not only did my old my house serve as an excellent setting for Ghost in the Graveyard it also was an ideal site for Capture the Flag. Bow in your reverence for the greatest summertime game ever invented. I actually stopped the car and pointed out the property line that served as the territory border during our games. Pointed out the junction box that was jail and how the street was out of bounds.

None of this was nearly as remarkable to them as the fact that I also grew up living a stone’s throw from a river.

“Dad, did you swim in the river?”

“Sometimes but it was gross. Grandma made us take showers as soon as we got home.”

“Did you have a boat?”

“No. But a few of our neighbors did so we went out on the river a lot.”

“Are there fish in the river?”

“Catfish and carp. But carp aren’t really fish as much as they are an organic garbage disposal.”

“It looks like the Ozarks but skinnier.”

The river looked like the Dan Ryan Expressway on Saturdays. Except there weren’t any lanes or guard rails. And virtually no rules other than don’t crash. We’d build these intricate sand forts and reinforce the front with clay because, well, that was extent of our engineering knowledge. But the wake from these boats would obliterate the wall from time to time. Which isn’t surprising since it is entirely plausible that the propellers on these oversized behemoths were dragging the bottom of the river.

It was a pretty cool place to be a kid. Lots of other kids on the street. We lived at the bottom of the hill which meant we could sit on our skateboards and lock arms and legs and ride down the whole street. We kinda looked like a mini skateboard catamaran.

If we did that now, I’m sure my folks would have been reported for child endangerment for not outfitting us with helmets, pads and a protective inflatable bubble. Although the bubble would have been helpful that nice spring morning back in 1980 when my sister and I decided it would be a good idea to roll down the hill before school. In our uniforms. Turns out the cotton/rayon blend in my uniform shirt didn’t hold up all that well when it skidded across the pavement. Still have a scar on my right shoulder.

Didn’t tell the kids that story.


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  1. Funny, I have been back to Algonquin a few times since being out here in California. And I dont remember rain, but I do remember ice and snow on the parking lot/playground and we still played outside at StMM. Nowadays kids will be inside on those days.

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