Like with Abby in the graveyard, getting oriented takes Tim a little while. The neighborhood is fairly similar, but landmarks he used to know, like the white house with swing set in the front yard is now blue and the swing set has been replaced by weeping willows, are gone or changed.
But he still knows this neighborhood, knows it in his bones, even if the landscape has shifted a bit.
He could just punch the address into the GPS, but he wants to find this on his own.
Wants to make sure it’s still there, inside him, somewhere.
And it is.
“Haven’t been back since ’96,” he says to Abby as they turn onto yet another residential street in maze of residential streets.
“What happened in ‘96?”
“Lots of things. My mom and dad finally divorced, and she moved back here for a few months. It was the last summer I came ‘home’ from college, so I also ended up here for a few months. I hadn’t planned on coming back. But Pop was sick, and Mom was trying to get resettled with Sarah, so an extra set of hands was useful.”
He pulls up in front of a clearly empty, but cared for, house. It’s old. Built around the turn of the last century, maybe a little before. It’s light blue with darker blue trim, a large wrap around porch, and Victorian lines.
“My mom grew up in this house. Pop and Gran got it right after World War II.”
As they get out of the car Abby says, “What do you think? Maybe some place like this for us?”
He nods. It’s aesthetically pleasing, and this sort of structure has good memories of family attached to it in his mind. “We can’t go in. I didn’t think to ask for a key before we left Texas.”
“Don’t want to break in?”
“Nah. Didn’t bring my picks, either. And there’s nothing inside. They’ve been holding onto it since my grandmother died. Between the market being lousy and this being a fairly nice neighborhood, they keep talking about maybe using it as a summer home after they retire. I think mostly my mom just doesn’t want to really let it go. If she sells it, her childhood, and a lot of ours, is really gone.”
|Learning to drive.|
“How old were you?”
“Thirteen. It was summer. Jessie Malone lived,” he points three houses down the street, “there. My dad was away. I’m sure my mom found being in a house with just us lonely. So we stayed up here that summer. Jessie and I were both too smart, too bored, too shy, and liked astronomy. Pop let us play with his telescope. Spent a lot of nights watching the stars, so nervous I felt like I was going to explode, and floating on a cloud every time her hand brushed mine. Last night of summer, she leaned over and kissed me before running home.”
She smiles at that story. “What happened after that?”
“We wrote each other for a while. Then the Admiral got home for two years on land, so I spent a lot of time fighting with him, so my letters to her got further and further apart. I didn’t like writing about that. And I don’t know what was going on in her life, but her letters to me cooled down, as well. Next summer, I came back here, and by then her family had moved.”
“Was she pretty?”
He smiles. “Her hair was long and brown, and she’d wear it in two ponytails.”
She grins back at that.
He stands up and offers her his hand. “Here. Wanna see something cute?”
“It seemed higher when I was a kid.” He boosts himself up, and she follows. “I don’t think the next level up will hold us, but see that branch there?” He points to one about four more feet above them and she nods. “Okay, look on the trunk about three feet above that.”
She does, seeing the heart with TM+JM carved into it, and smiles brightly at him. “You’re right, that’s so cute.”
He smiles. “I really liked her.”
“You spend a lot of time in this tree?”
“Yeah. I’d sit up there, lean against the trunk, and read.”
They sit there for a few more minutes. He’s swinging his feet, something else that brings back memories of being a kid. Finally he says, “We should probably get back on the road if we want to make Portland by sundown.”
“Okay. Thanks for showing this to me.”
“Not a problem.”
“I like having images to go with the idea of you as a kid.”
They’re about ten feet away when she turns around and takes a shot of the tree, and then as they head toward the car she gets one of the porch.
Once they get in the car she says, “You’d prefer I didn’t put this on Facebook, right?”
“No problem. I just want them for me, and one day, our kids.”
He smiles gently at that, liking the idea of telling their kids about his grandfather.