Drive Down Memory Lane

A wonderful thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

Thanks to social media, I was able to reconnect with an old friend from 25+ years ago – gosh, am I really getting that old???

We agreed to meet at a coffee shop (name begins with an “S”) at the old town where our families first met years ago. I had moved away in 20001 so for me, it appeared that there was a lot of changes including this coffee shop we had our get-together.

The conversation flowed easily as we reminisced about old friends and marveled at how our sons had each grown up into young adults. He learned about the loss of my first wife as he remembered her kindness and personality. Though we both looked a bit more “filled-out”, the familiarity was so comforting.

Soon it was time to depart as my friend had a patient to see. We exchanged goodbyes and as I walked to my car, a thought came to mind. Why not drive down Refugio Valley Road to the old house and see what has changed.

With a smile, I started my engine and proceeded to the old familiar route…I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Lucky supermarket was still active with shoppers. The McDonald’s up the road was our usual spot to buy those Happy Meals to collect the many toys depending upon the promotions. I recalled how little my older son was as he would always be so excited to go through the narrow drive-thru path to the golden arches. Mom always had a mission to collect the full set of toys from those meals.

Turning right onto the main road, I could see the familiar tennis courts and the old parking lot that always had enough parking spaces for the players. Across the street stood the old fountain that was the hallmark of this city. So many memories flooded my mind as I recalled the family walks, bike rides, and tossing the old pigskin with my son.

As the road continued towards the hills, I remembered the old (but new at the time we left this city) community center and pool area. That was the place to be as the city housed many young families at the time. The ambience attracted neighboring cities to bring their residents to our little town and enjoy the clean park, trash-free pathways, and serene streets.

Driving further up the road, the condominium complexes were on my right as I approached our old neighborhood. It was nice to see that the homeowners association maintained the colors that gave it a classy feel. I almost forgot that we almost purchased one of these townhouses before we moved into our single-family dwelling.

Across the street was that kidney-shaped parking area where I recalled how my son struggled to ride his bicycle up the pathway only to fall into the bushes. Startled, he jumped off his bike and popped onto the sidewalk while mom rushed to his side and brushed away the dirt. I went into the shrub to get his bike and with a slight adjustment of the handle bar, we put this toddler back onto his seat. I will never forget the look on his face when he jumped out of the shrubs and that memory made me smile.

Alas, the old neighborhood!

These were all new homes at the time and we loved that Plan-5 house which we took many pictures as it was being built. This 5-bedroom, 3-bath, 3-car garage home was 2600 sq. feet and we thought it would be our final home. Both boys were born and raised in that home and we knew all of our neighbors. Everyone was so friendly and we were very proud to have scraped together enough money to move into that large house. The lot was perfect as it was situated in the middle of that street – this was for our children’s safety because if there was a car coming from either direction, it gave the kids plenty of time to react and get out of the street. Yes, we thought of that too! Turning onto Montego Drive, I remembered most of my neighbors and their children. I could almost envision all of them as if I had transported back in time. It was surreal!

Finally, I arrived at my old house. The low brick walls that formed the property’s boundaries was still there! The Japanese Maple tree was beautiful in spite of its 27-year history. I remembered the large front office room window  on the second floor as I would stare out into the neighborhood when I needed to refocus my brain and write more computer programs for my clients.

I recalled the backyard wood railing where my older son, who was two years old at the time, ran his right hand along the edge but stopped when he realized that his palm was filled with splinters. The crying was piercing as mom had to hold him down while dear old dad used a fingernail clipper to remove every single wooden piece. It took over an hour with a writhing child screaming in pain while a determined mother held her little boy tight with love and tears. That was a painful experience for ALL of us!!!

The new family had repainted the house which gave it a fresh look – I was so pleased that they have taken care of this old house. The memories were overwhelming as I recalled how my wife used to push what we called the “Cadillac-type stroller” down the street for her one-mile walk around the neighborhood while I traveled on business many nights. In fact, my son still remembers those late night trips to the Oakland airport where I would be dropped off or picked up at the terminal. I hated to travel so much and be away from my family but this helped us pay the bills and allowed my wife to be a successful stay-at-home mother.

As I left the old neighborhood, my heart was filled with love and warm thoughts. This was where we raised our two boys, met so many young families, attended the local church, served in choir and the many performances both for adults and the children, taught Sunday School, and enjoyed a community of people who shared a common goal to raise our families in a safe city.

That day began with a good old friend and ended with great old memories. I was so glad that I took the extra time to drive down memory lane!

 

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