I don’t mean that my cell phone is out of its normal area and we are getting roaming charges. Actually, the cell phone we bought for this trip stopped working just three hours from home.
No, we are really roaming. My sons and I are on a road trip. The little woman (and I mean little, she has been running and she is getting skinny!) is staying behind.
Rocky wanted to come, but we left him behind also. Which is making this trip a lot more pleasant. He is pretty demanding of attention and things are a lot more relaxed.
I stopped in a little town in northern California, a place where I have a lot of memories.
I was in kindergarten when we moved to 137 Plumas St., Willows, California. The kindergarten is gone and a public pool is in its place.
But the house is still there, looking as if it hasn’t been painted in the intervening 45 years.
I’m not sure why my dad moved there. It was 500 miles from where he had lived most of his life. It may say something about being young and wanting freedom, after all, I doubled that distance when I moved to Oregon.
I know he drove truck for Baker Trucking. I remember going with him to the grain silos and the smell of rice and wheat and grease and sweat.
At any rate... I stopped in Willows, yesterday.
I checked out Murdock Elementary School, which turns out to be only a mile from where I lived (in my memory it seemed to have been at least two miles that I walked to my first grade class room where I learned the mysteries of such things as the word “orange” is much harder to spell than the word “red”, and that the letters “i” and “j” may look alike, but have very different symbolic lives).
I got a bicycle when I was in first grade. A shiny red one. I pointed out to Isaac where the bike rack was, and there is still one there, with another red bike parked there as well.
I told Isaac how a police car followed me from school one day. He finally stopped me, and explained I was riding home on a bike that wasn’t mine. It looked just like mine, but it belonged to another boy. He put the bike in his trunk and we went to the police station. He said I had been taking the wrong bike all week and they had waited for me that day to correct the situation. My bike was in the station.
I told Isaac how I had swallowed a tooth while eating a peanut butter sandwich there. How my mom told me I could leave a note for the tooth fairy and how I got a reply. The reply included the answer to my question about what the tooth fairy did with the teeth (she turns them into billard balls).
The house I had lived in is smaller than I remember. The juniper trees have been cut down, as well as the oak tree in the back yard. The lawn hasn’t been watered in a very long time, and the walnut tree with the swing in the backyard is gone.
The house across the street that I thought was haunted had been replaced with apartments, and the church where I say jesus smile at me through a stain glass window has been replaced with a new church building. I had hoped the steeple with the bell was still there, but it isn’t.
Strange that I am so drawn to this place. I suppose it was the most stable years of my childhood, that house where my parents’ marriage fell apart.
I had forgotten the intriguing craftsmanship evidenced in the banisters and entries inside.
Looking up at the high roof I can see why my dad gave us such a licking for climbing up there to throw balsa gliders.
The old garage is there and so is the apricot tree we climbed so we could dare each other to touch the power line for a hugely exciting shock.
It was at this house that my faith took root. I was only five years old when I had a series of experiences which formed my character.
I had closed my eyes and tried to walk through the fence at the kindergarten, and come to the conclusion that I hadn’t enough faith.
I had rung that bell in that steeple on the corner to create a ringing voice to call people from across our town to services.
It was there that I knew the meaning of the communion I was not allowed to share, knowing for the first time that my mother did not know all that I thought she must know. That there were truths inside of me that others didn’t know.
It was there that I had my own scientific epiphanies. It was on a walk to Murdock Elementary that I realized that the shifting perspectives of a picket fence and the house behind it were the same thing as the trees flying past a distant moon as my father drove a country road. I realized at that moment the approximate distance of the moon, one that years later I found was not very far off.
I thought I’d feel warm and tied back to the memories of a very good time in my life (aside from the vivid memories of paternal punishments).
But I didn't.
After walking around that house with the “sale pending” sign in the yard I felt melancholy.
Just as the building itself is smaller in the reality of my perceptions today, the experiences seem to have shrunk as well. I see the places where I had raced around the neighborhood on that red bike and the magic of it is all dusty and nearly forgotten.
Perhaps the magic that was there was simply the magic that can be found in the heart of a six year old who believes in God and that the world is good, even though his father is cheating on his mother and the branches of the persimmon tree were used for spankings for childhood infractions.
The melancholy I feel is about the change of perspective. Just as the pickets of the fence changed their relative position in front of the house, and the trees moved across the yellow light of the moon, the paths of a six year old look very different from the distance of 45 years.
How will all this life appear from the perspective of eternity? Will I look at the worries of raising my children with nostalgia when I see them from the distance of immortality?
Side note: I will continue posting as I have opportunities on this trip. It isn’t often I have such free time to reflect on things. So, leave a note you were here... it’s reassuring to have the voices of my blogging friends while I am so far from home. God bless!