A funny thing about memories, if you think about it, is that you can't think about them without them. As soon as something happens, it becomes a memory. What we learn, what we know, what we do, and who and what we become are all derived from our memories. We remember how to speak, how to write, how to recognize what we see, and how to do things that we take for granted. We can breath without memories, and our body will function at a minimal level, but anything more than that requires memories.
Usually when the word "memories" is used, it implies the nostalgic type of memories, as in "The good old days" or "I remember when..." Experts who study the brain and its memory functions tell us that when we forget things that we once knew, it just means we have lost the mental links to that memory. The memory is still in there somewhere but you just can't connect to it. I've lost a lot of connections.
Recently I was visiting the town where I grew up. Some would call that period as my formative years, but just about all of my years have been formative in some way or another. When they stop being formative then I will be dead at least for all practical purposes. Anyway, my visit provided a lot of mental connections to memories that I thought were lost or at least forgotten. But then I didn't know I'd forgotten many of those memories since there were no memories to remind me of what I'd forgotten. It was like finding things I'd forgotten I'd ever owned.
It started in the house where I lived from the time I was born until I left home at 17. Seventeen years isn't all that many years in the long-term, but they were the most formative of my formative years, so their impact was the greatest. I first noticed some lost memories when I opened a rarely used cupboard in the dining room and a familiar smell triggered the memory of the doll house that my older sister made in that cupboard, complete with lights, rugs, and all the miniature furniture. It wasn't an exciting memory that will keep readers glued to a page, but it was significant to me, especially since my older sister has passed away. This triggered a whole sequence of memories about my sister and I and growing up in that house. I began snooping around the house opening closets, exploring long unexplored places and reliving much of my childhood. Then I decided to expand my trip down memory lane to my hometown.
It was early evening in late May as I began my walk. The weather was perfect. People were out mowing lawns and kids were playing. Our house, which was built the year I was born, was the third house from the edge of town on a dead-end street. I headed in that direction, although the town now extends several miles beyond. I walked on streets that had replaced paths in fields and woods, recalling the fun I had with my childhood playmates in the streams and swamps that are now housing developments.
As I headed back towards the old part of town, I passed the house where my first serious girlfriend, Judy Crone, had lived with her family. Her dad was out mowing the lawn, and I stopped for a moment and waved, knowing that he would not recognize me. He waved back and continued mowing. I was surprised that he was even alive. He must have been close to 90. Judy had been my girlfriend during the summer between my junior and senior year in high school. She was going into the 9th grade, so I guess she was 13 or 14 and I was 16.
I recalled the day that Judy and I went to Buckeye Lake with her parents, returning that evening to her house. We sat in the living room talking until her mom suggested that Judy and I go down the basement to the family room rather than hang with the old folks. Thanks to her mom, Judy and I both lost our virginity that night on the sofa in their basement. We were both naked as J-birds when her mom came down and announced that it was time for Judy to go to bed. Thanks to a blanket and dim lighting her mom never suspected. Our second sexual encounter was a few weeks later in a reclining lawn chair in her garage.
On down the street a block was the house where, years ago, I was shot at by the police. I was a freshman in college at that time and home for the summer. It was a hot summer night and my friend Jack Brooks and I were playing a form of tag that involved a new housing development and running on the roofs of new ranch homes under construction. Evidently someone called the police and reported burglars. The police showed up with spotlights. They didn't see Jack, but they got a spotlight on me and ordered me off the roof. I ran down the backside of the roof and across the yard toward a field. Jack was hiding in the tree line and saw a cop pull his gun, yell, "Stop or I'll shoot,"and then shoot at me. A newspaper article the next week reported that the cop fired a warning shot, but Jack swears the cop was aiming at me. I escaped into a tall field of grass and evaded a roadblock, before arriving safely home.
Further in towards the center of town I passed the old roller skating rink that only survived as a roller rink for a few years. It is now a warehouse for a clothing manufacturer. In the 7th grade my second cousin, Sandy, was visiting us from southern Ohio where she lived on a dairy farm. She was a year older than I, but I had a terrible crush on her. We went skating and held hands. It was a big deal for me, and I felt guilty, as if I were breaking some law about relationships with relatives. I have only seen her once since then, and that was in 1958, but I still have a crush on her.
A few more blocks brought me to the old school house that was built in the late 1800's and was, until the 1930's, the only school in town. It had 12 classrooms and served grades 1 through 12. I attended elementary school there and got my one and only paddling from the principal for something I didn't do. Curt Clapan, Charley Bevelheimer and I were in the 5th grade, and we had been playing ball during recess when the ball went through the glass in a second floor window. We wouldn't tell who did it, so we all got paddled. Charley is dead now, so I can finally tell. Charley did it.
That was also the year that the school counselor told my parents I needed more of a male role model in my life. My father was a traveling salesman and was gone every week, leaving me at home with my mom, my grandmother and my older sister. So my dad bought me a gun and took me out of school for the first day of hunting season. Seven years later, when I graduated from high school, they gave an award to the student who had missed the least number of days of school in 12 years. I'd only missed a day and a half. The other half-day was when I slipped on the railroad tracks on the way to school and broke my collarbone. Mary Lynn Ballard got the award for only missing a day of school. I've never forgiven that school counselor for causing me to miss that award. Mary Lynn died a number of years ago from a bad heart. She was a good friend -- even if she did get that award instead of me.
I walked past where water tower use to be. It was a landmark for us kids who liked to climb it and paint things on it. I recalled the time in 11th grade when Bill Keller, Jake Elberfeld, and I made pipe bombs. Jake was behind the police station with his bomb, Bill was down the street behind the high school with his bomb and I was at the water tower with mine. At the stroke of midnight Jake set off his bomb, which caused the police to come running out of the station. As soon as Bill heard Jake's bomb, he lit his. It went off about the time that the police were out of the station. The high school was only a block south of the station and the police started in that direction. When I heard Bill's bomb go off, I set mine off, which was in the opposite direction from where the police were heading. We all met back at Bill's house and had a great laugh over another successful harassment of the local police. Jake eventually became a surgeon and was killed in an auto crash. Bill died recently of Huntington's disease.
On the way back from my walk, I passed the former home of Todd Gould. His dad owned Gould's Pontiac where my dad bought every car I can remember. I can't recall my father owning any car except a Pontiac. Todd once told us that jerking off was bad because you only had so many sperm, and when they were gone, that was it. It didn't stop anyone from jerking off including Todd. Todd became a medical doctor and I lost track of him.
These were only a few of the memories that I had on my walk around town. There are so many more, and I cherish all of them, and I often wish that I could go back and do it all over again. And I will on my next visit to my hometown.