Notre Dame of Years Past

The bus stop was down the street and a little to the left. We step-off and on to the dirt fading in to grass and out on the uneven neighborhood streets. Letting our feet lead the way that our eyes guided, home we were bound for. The first step in was the right turn off the busy road, the last of the busy roads and the succession of roads know only through bus windows, and taking a high view in of the places I’ve know by my own hiking-curiosity through the years. Those feet on broken streets and the dust transitioning it to the grass, the same kind of grass that browns outside while the heat and haze of summer keeps us in, and the same grass covering the steep hills between the porch outside the house of my little neighborhood.

To streets running parallel, or one to be exact, and I’d make my way along one standing tall between two lying flat. I can still remember the houses that I would see for scenery every day, and find it funny that I never knew those who called them home or those who could see me pass outside their window daily. There was one that was orange and another blue, and one that was white after an open “field” bigger than one I had ever knew. It would be funny to see what’s in quotation marks and compare it to the empty spaces I’d grow and know, but then it was large, sun-scorched, and only counting days between when it was cut. Closer now and that field cut to depletion, and an immediate neighbour of mine plotted behind us and across from a friend. My friend, too, had land so large and spacious but covered in living grass. Life marked their feet all over it, pressing prints of folded blades of grass, but I’m getting ahead of the younger me walking down the lane. My friend’s home and my bitter neighbor’s, two parallel like beams of a finish-line, were the last things I crossed before the fence. With legs of boards like piano keys and a trellis for a shirt, this long guard of our backyard was the next plunge deeper in to the comfort of home. A big tree I would never climb, an above-ground pool seemingly broken and needing repair as a spring tradition, and the white grid of stones making a patio….. it felt like a front yard more than a back one.

Near the corner, the closest corner to my approaching nostalgic youth, was my mother’s garden. There was time when that neat rectangle, where tomatoes and beans would grow, was just more of the yard, but my father turned the earth and soon what grew there was from the seeds chosen and not the weeds randomly thrown in. One thing stood taller, whether planted or a happy accident, with yellow leaves and black seeds turned to the sunlight. I remember those because I had never seen them so wild before and still haven’t since, and because from the house or in the yard you only saw their backs. They grew from the earth and turned their faces, no eyes to be seen while they squinted against the brightness and took in the warm glow from wherever they felt it. From the outside, from the street, for the child heading home hopeful because it was better than school but coming to grips with the misery bleeding in to the comfort, their faces and attention were there like a Hershey bar to a bastard.

The file of youth in the cabinet of my head is as well organized as a recounter might prefer, and as a result a might be putting sentences together with words from different stories, but there’s still accuracy in each of the letters, each of their collectives, and as a result an accuracy to the purpose they’re committing and the sentence they feel they deserve. Even when my friend moved away and the new neighbors repainted the window borders black, or when the house formerly known as my home was sold to someone new, I still have enough of it in my head that it’ll never be gone forever. I’ll keep that, because if a whole world can disappear just because it was a different time and place then what meaning would anything ever have?