There Are Places I Remember

I haven’t got the heart today to write about the Boy Scouts becoming the Gay Scouts. With a holiday weekend on tap, I find myself waxing nostalgic.

Here are a few of the places that I used to know. They have been erased from the earth, bulldozed, paved over, by that jolly “green” environmentally-friendly political party whose name starts with a D. It is as if they never were.

Well, maybe I imagined them. But if I have, then the world that I’ve imagined beats the living daylights out of the real thing–as Puddleglum might say. Anyhow, here they are: once real, now gone.

1. Hangman’s Tree. This was a mighty tree that stood in the heart of a woodland that no more exists. From high up top in Hangman’s Tree, you could see practically to Egypt. It was a brooding black tree, and kid legend had it that they used to hang people from that huge, slightly curved branch some ten feet from the ground. We once freaked out a new kid on the block by leading him through the woods to Hangman’s Tree, all the while filling his ears with scary stories. Meanwhile, one of our set had gone ahead and hanged a doll from that big branch. So when we got there, we feigned shock and dismay, “Oh, no! They’ve hanged another one!” And you should’ve seen the poor newbie take off. Whoosh!

No trace of it remains.

2. The Spring. Not far from the very edge of the woods, this little spring bubbled up from the ground. The water was cold, no matter how hot the summer day, and indescribably delicious. Everybody in the neighborhood drank from it–my father used to bring bottles and fill them–and no one ever got sick. It’s all under a parking lot now.

3. Daredevil’s Creek. I have no idea how it got that name. It was just an ordinary little brook, bordered by some of the nicest blackberry patches you’d ever want to see. Some of us had the impression that the frogs here were bigger and bolder than elsewhere. The creek was right next door to a seasonal pond that we all used to play in. The pond is now paved over, and the creek has been chased out of existence by a development featuring streets named for poets.

4. The Foxhole. No one had a convincing theory as to why there should be this big hole in the middle of the woods. It was really much bigger than a foxhole, but we children of the Fifties grew up on war movies and we insisted on calling it The Foxhole. Even as a small boy, I sensed there was something magical about the site. But this particular  magic has been paved over.

I could go on. Every place I remember leads me to remember yet another one. I’ve lived in the same town all my life, and there’s practically nothing left of the places I grew up in. A few neighborhoods have remained basically the same.  Oh, but one last memory…

5. Quiet Sundays. These were the sounds of a summer Sunday afternoon here, once upon a time: the faraway crack of a bat, or clink of horseshoes; the occasional “clack-clack” of a non-motorized lawn mower; doves cooing; Mel Allen’s voice on the television, “How about that?” As opposed to what we have now: leaf blowers, heavy traffic, and really rotten music played at high volumes by idiots.

Mai ou sont las neiges d’antan?

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