Today on my way home from church I decided to take the long way home. On a whim I started driving towards the home of my youth. The place where I grew up, spent my life from age 1 to 22. It was kind of a shocking trip.
I wanted to see how much had changed in the neighborhoods. As I drove down the street I passed many familiar houses. As I passed, names would come. Wynn's, Seeley's, Stewart's, Klingler's, and on and on. Then, as I got closer to my destination I found myself saying, "Ricks', I don't know, I don't know, John and Sylvia, I don't know, I don't know, I don't know." I knew I was close to the farm where I grew up, but I couldn't really see it. Where had all these houses come from?
I finally arrived at our lane.
When I picture this place from my childhood I see a long gravel road. It seemed about a mile long, with a horse pasture on the left and a grain field on the right. Halfway down the lane is the big white brick house in which my family lived from the time I was in 3rd grade on. It was then one of the larger houses in the area. And it was surrounded on all sides by fields. At the end of the road, after a gentle S-curve, was the farm. It had 5 huge chicken coops, an egg-processing plant, the old farm house that we lived in previously, giant walk-in coolers and freezers, numerous smaller outbuildings, an elevator leg and grain bins, and sidewalks, gravel, dirt, weeds, and old farm equipment scattered in nitches between buildings or laying at the edge of the 25 acres that my father owned.
The first shock I received was immediate. This road was paved! I would have thought I was in heaven if the road had been paved when I was learning to ride my bike. Even walking was hard on the large rounded rocks that passed for gravel back in the day. The finely crushed gravel that I see on some country roads now is still a definite step up in comfort to what we had. Driving a car on this road had to be done slowly, the sound of rocks flipping up and hitting the oil pan under the car was enough to slow anyone with sense down.
My next shock was the number of houses on this street. Big beautiful houses with gorgeous landscaped yards lined the street to the left. I drove slowly, gawking in awe at the change. It seemed like I had only driven about half of a city block when I suddenly realized that on the right was our big white brick house. Surely it had been a longer walk than that to catch the bus at the end of our lane. It kind of saddened me to see the house. My mothers beautiful black wrought iron posts that held up our front porch were replaced by ugly wooden logs. There were also blue shutters put up next to each of the front windows, that looked incongruously out of place. The trees and bushes had overgrown so much that the house was almost hidden, but the driveway was black-topped! That would have been nice.
I kept slowly driving and gawking. I couldn't believe that there was another road behind our big house that had houses on. There were more houses on the lane to the left on the lane from our big house to the farm. And, once again, it seemed so short! All of a sudden I was driving past the farm house, which hadn't changed. Many of the building had been torn down and hauled away leaving long flat expanses of cement. I drove clear through the loop of the farm, on the road which was entirely paved. It was a shock to the senses, the mind, the memories, and the emotions.
I'm kind of glad I went. Kind of. But I don't think I want to go back.