Saturday, June 2, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Town and Country

As a former military brat, I’ve lived in a number of areas, but two places in particular were places I considered “home.”

For a period of about three years, until I was nearly 4, my family shared a home with my father’s parents in Ludlow, Massachusetts. My family – my dad, my mom, and my four siblings – lived downstairs. My grandma and grandpa lived above. We had a few acres of land, enough for my grandfather to grow corn, berries, cucumbers, etc.

My memories of our time spent living there are very few. I have more memories of when we would visit every summer for the five years after my dad was transferred to D.C. We would spend several weeks each summer visiting my grandparents’ house. They had moved downstairs after our departure and they rented out the upstairs apartment.

I can recall running freely around the property, to the home across the street, to the house down the street with the people who had an above-ground pool. I recall picking strawberries and blueberries and corn. I can see us all sitting out around the big table for meals. I can see us swinging on the porch swing. I can see us swinging on the cheap structure with two regular swings and the type of swing where you sat across from each other.

The area had a rural feel to it, an agricultural feel, but one with a strong Yankee influence. Perhaps “puritanical” is the word I’m struggling to find to describe it. Everyone seemed to work hard for what they could get. And the kids – especially my sister and I – had to help out quite a bit in the preparation of the meals and the clean up following it. I doubt my mother got much rest. Ditto my grandma.

The other “home” for me is Northern Virginia. I lived there for two stretches: the early elementary school years and then the high school years. My high school was in Burke. And the area was just an explosion of growth. But, at that time, I could get in a car and drive down the curvy back roads of the county with my friends. We were escaping something. At the time, I’m not sure what it was we were running from, but I understand it now. We were running away from growing up, from moving on, from parting.

I’d probably have a very hard time navigating the streets of Burke and its surrounding towns nowadays. I’ve not been back to my old haunts in many, many years. When I went for my last extended visit – more than, say, a day or so – it was a dozen years after I’d left, and I was at a loss to feel any sense of recognition to what I had once had. The stars I’d been able to see on summer nights? Completely obscured by the lights of progress. The fireflies I’d chased? I could see a twinkle or two. The mosquitoes found me. They always do. And the humidity as well.

I now live in a town not unlike the town I spent my high school years in. Its growth spurts likely matched the spurts my old town matched. I imagine there are people of my age who were leaving this town at the same time I was leaving Burke. I imagine them returning and looking around and feeling only slight recognition.

Since leaving those two childhood homes, I’ve had a taste of city living. I don’t live far from San Francisco, a city I lived in for more than six years. I live now in neither town nor country, but in a hybrid, a mutant of the two. I guess it makes sense for me, raised nowhere in particular, to now live in such a place. I’m happy here, although I’d like to take some of the best parts of the past – the fresh berries and the fireflies, to name two – and give my children a taste of them.


myrtle beached whale said...

It must be great to live near enough to visit San Francisco, one of our truly great cities, whenever you choose. I love having access to the culture of a major city with the option of escaping when it gets to be overwhelming.

Mel said...

Psssst... I tagged you back, for the meme Donna hit me with! And I will do your meme tomorrow.

Betty Carlson said...

I think if I never, ever live in a big city, I'll regret it. Maybe for retirement?

I spent a lot of time in SF while I was at college -- I was lucky enough to have an aunt and uncle who lived there at the time. A pretty great city to have done your city living in, methinks.

Anonymous said...

I'm a some-where-in-between mouse too, of an old neighborhood in a small university town variety. My city mouse wants to go back to Venice Italy for a vacation, what a city!

gautami tripathy said...

I loved reading about your two homes. It seems you are fond of both having such strong memories.

Forest Dogs said...

We was attracted to your blog by your name... we likes the idea of weeing all the way home :-)

Mom used to live in the London-town, but she always wanted to move back to the countryside, and said to her four hooman puppies she would rescue a dog if she did... along came me!

We's is very happy in our country house, and the hooman puppies love it here too, but we think sometimes mom misses the town and having everything nearby!

But, most of all, she likes to get up early and takes us for a walk in the forest (see our blog if you don't believe us! :-) ) and take lots of pichures.

Second Blogblast for Peace
Wednesday 6th June 2007

Clockworkchris said...

Wow, what a great description of your childhood. Where I have always, and still do live (same city at least) there are still plenty of fireflys. I guess that means it's not that big of a city. I can still find many places to drive without much light. This was a very personal adventure we all got to take with you. I hope you find a spot your children enjoy as much as you did. I always imagined moving around as a child would be terrible since I never left my house except for college in 26 years, but you make it seem like it would be okay.

Tammy Brierly said...

Wonderful post! I grew up an hour from SF and I keep climbing towards Tahoe. lol

Kara said...

I like how you wrote about your childhood and led us to where you live now. Your words make me ponder if we aren't all headed toward living a hybrid life - not sure if that is a good or a bad thing. Enjoyed your post.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I enjoyed reading your descriptions here.

Molly said...

I love your varied sense of place. Also love the image of the blueberry--yum!

tricia stirling said...

I love the berries and the fireflies. and the neighbors with the above-ground pool.

Anonymous said...

thanks for dropping by my scribbles ... thanks for the wishes for my trip - this is our second on Route 66 and it is so special ... i do hope your daughter gets to drive it one day - it is a remarkable experiece
i will be recording my trip on my 'other blog' at if you're interested

spacedlaw said...

Nothing can beat the fresh berries...
Teere should be some in any childhood.

The Owners said...

I love this part:

"We were escaping something. At the time, I’m not sure what it was we were running from, but I understand it now. We were running away from growing up, from moving on, from parting."

I never thought about it before, but that's exactly what I was doing too.

Great post.


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