I was speaking to my wife the other day about the differences in our middle school lives, and for some reason decided to look up the house I lived in during that time. The house is still there, the middle school appears to have a newer parking lot, but it really didn’t spark all that much in the way of nostalgia.
Probably because I was picked on and I’m “repressing” my memories.
A few hours later, I thought I’d look up the house I lived in when I was much younger, from age 5 to age 9. Not only did I find the house quickly (and I even remembered the address), an amazing thing happened: I found out just how many trivial things I can remember.
Take a look at this screenshot from Google Maps. I grew up in the house I’ve circled.
See the pool in the lower left? I learned to swim there and received my “FISH” badge by picking up a penny dropped in the shallow end. The exact spot is marked with an “X”.
I was 5.
Now look in the upper right, where another “X” is. It was there that I found a condom under a tree still in a wrapper and decided it would make a neat balloon. The building just to the north of that spot is a motel of sorts where I remember seeing a maid look out at three boys blowing up a prophylactic. She was, of course, laughing in that jiggly sort of way some people do.
Just to the left of that “X” is where two older boys beat me up when I fell off my bicycle, cut my knee and cried. I was beat up because–and I quote–“Eight-year-olds don’t cry! Don’t ever do that again or we’ll beat you harder.”
I haven’t cried in front of people since.
I’m almost 42 now.
Across the street from the house I lived in, there was a stand of bamboo. The neighbor kids and I would run through “tunnels” we carved and there was a pile of old Playboy magazines that had been smuggled in by some sneaky kid. That pile was located just the south of where the “r” in “Juniper” is.
From just this small picture, which is probably no more that a few hundred feet wide, I feel almost like Ray Bradbury must have as he looked back on Green Town, or how any of us might feel when we’re walking down the train tracks looking for trouble on a hot summer day. It’s amazing what memories we possess and what possesses us to remember them.
We don’t need to invent a fantasy world to dive into the fantasy of our past. In fact, I have every intention of writing about “Juniper Street” and all the dragons and demons we fought there. (I didn’t mention the massive fort we built out of cardboard moving boxes. I think it was at least the size of an aircraft carrier. Of course, at 7, things appear larger than they really are.)
In a weird way, I think I found myself a novel waiting to be told.
And it’s been waiting for over three decades.
(By the way, I stuck my hand in a fire ant hill on the southeast corner of my yard when I was 6. I was playing with Weeble Wobbles and needed dirt for the airport. Painful, to say the least. Those were a few hundred demons I fought but didn’t beat.)