A Ride Down Memory Lane…
Earlier this month, I was out for an early evening cycle when I decided to ride by the homestead of my first eight years on this planet. Not unlike many working-class neighborhoods in any large North American city, our semi-detached house had a lane-way out back from which one could access the respective driveways and garages. It was this lane-way that intrigued me as I hadn’t seen it in more than 45 years. So, with a tad of nostalgia and a whole lot of curiosity, I steered my bike in its direction and went for a ride down memory lane.
Oddly enough, I write this on the 50th Anniversary of the Moon landing, which on its own conjures up a whole lot of memories in the above-mentioned semi-detached house – black and white TV blaring while watching one of the monumental events of human history take place. But there’s something unique about going back to a place one hadn’t seen in decades. It grabs one by the hand and says, “Come with me, I want to show you something.” At least that was the feeling I had as I slowly pedaled into this lane-way returning me to the memory of my childhood.
Like a time-warp, I immediately felt transported into a time and place that no longer existed (see Time: The Ultimate Currency…). Looking around, I envisioned the numerous street hockey games we had pretending to be Ken Dryden or Dave Keon, but no kids were to be seen. I remembered climbing the fence to the fire hall’s backyard abutting the lane-way and playing baseball, tag and hide-and-seek there, but again, no kids were to be seen. I remember moms belting out the names Mario, Luigi, Andrea, Norman, Stephen and of course yours truly, Albert, to come home for supper, but again, no kids were to be seen. The landscape had become void of children, that is, of life. Not even a cat or a dog was to be seen!
The firemen, with whom we would have numerous water fights, were also nowhere to be seen. No buckets of water dropping from the rooftop; no garden hose laying about to spray them with. Even the fire yard benches, where we whittled away our endless summer days, were gone. Replaced but by a lonely empty picnic table sitting by a barbecue. What was once a fence bare of shrubs was now overgrown with greenery and bushes. Our sacred stomping grounds barely in sight, not even a thought. Where had all the fun and excitement gone?
As I pedaled further along, many of the garages still stood, however ours was gone. The green garage at the lane-way end was still there, and it was still green. The concrete lane-way surface, freshly installed at the time, had weathered well. And yes, that old pear tree in our backyard, which we climbed for pears, was still standing. Needless to say, no one was climbing it.
With the backyards void of life, I thought I’d pedal around front. My memories of verandas teeming with kids, parents and grandparents were for naught. Not a soul to be seen. No ice cream trucks with their melodies playing, no knife-sharpening vendor and no milkman to be seen. It’s as if the people had up and left. Had moved on. Had carried life elsewhere. Time does that, I guess.
Yet my eye caught a “Sold” sign on the semi-attached house that was our neighbor. She had passed away several years ago and the house had been sold again. Upon further investigation, I discovered that the place had been completely renovated and recently sold for more than $1.2 million dollars. I thought back to when my parents sold our house in the early 1970’s for $26,000 dollars and it made me wonder how times change. It made me ask: for the better? Maybe, but not always.
It was Danish philosopher and author Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) who stated that “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
Living in the past is a bad thing, but visiting it is not. To never visit the past is to never properly appreciate the present. Visiting the past puts the present in perspective. It places us and provides a point of reference. It allows us to understand that life is limited, and we must value the present, for it too shall soon pass. For how else can we better navigate the future if we don’t appreciate where we came from and where we are?
With this in mind, we must never be afraid to step back in time. To go to a place, we once knew, but no longer do. It may not always be the easiest journey, but it will always be a worthwhile one. A worthwhile ride down memory lane, that is…
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