Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A sense of place.

In the book I was reading, a man develops an unreasonable fondness for a path as he contemplates a possible marriage. It struck me that there is a strong sense of place in the simplest things.

The other day I was walking and saw something that struck a note. In a backyard there was an Adirondack chair near an old garage. I felt such a sense of longing. Which confused me. The yard was dark and unkempt and the garage needed a coat of paint. Why would I want that? Then it occurred to me that something about the scene reminded me of my childhood home.

 It wasn't the backyard I was envious of, it was the memory of a safe and loving childhood. A memory of a time when my biggest responsibility was making my bed. When the only danger was falling out of trees or skinning a knee during tag. A time of well worn traditions, holidays and routines - school on the weekdays, summer at the Jersey shore, Easter egg hunts and Christmases when all the relatives came to us.

I can remember those strange little things from the house where I grew up: the bumpy roots of the huge oak in our backyard, the shape of the flagstones on the front path, the best way to ride your bike around the old slabs of slate sidewalk heaved up by tree roots.

On fall mornings I would walk to school with a cousin or a friend and we would shush through ankle deep piles of fallen leaves.

One spring, when I was very young, I picked a bunch of the daffodils that lined the driveway. Holding them upside down they became ladies in ballgowns and I danced them all over the backyard.

I was lucky. I had a great time growing up. So I totally understood the man's sudden fondness for a path that lead to his sweetheart's house. Another tool for the writer's toolbox.

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