I’m old enough now to wonder whether some of my childhood memories are really memories. I wonder if they’re only dreams.
Once upon a time there was a great estate in our neighborhood, complete with large in-ground swimming pool. Nobody but very rich people had those. There was a huge white house and all sorts of smaller buildings assembled around it, like chicks around the mother hen.
We called it “Oppenheim’s.” It’s possible that this wasn’t really its name, but that’s the name we had for it.
Oppenheim’s was separated from the ordinary homes on Juniper Street by a little stream, a bit of marshland, and just a few yards of spindly woods. I remember one day I managed to get to the opposite bank of the stream for a closer look at Oppenheim’s. One of the older kids started to pick on me, and a man came over from Oppenheim’s and chased him away.
And then one day Oppenheim’s was deserted. Suddenly no one lived there. That was the signal for my friends and me to cross over to the estate and run wild, exploring everything, pretending it was ours. We got into the big house. Oh, so many rooms! I think one was a ballroom. It was sort of like the house in a game of Clue, only without the billiard tables. We kept daring each other to swim in the pool; but summer had passed, and dead leaves increasingly blanketed the water and turned it dark and murky. No one took the dare.
And then the bulldozers came and tore it all down, gorgeous white house, outbuildings, stables, garage, and all. No more Oppenheim’s. In its place, a housing development–three or four blocks’ worth.
Patty and I have searched the Internet for any mention of the Oppenheim estate in our town, circa 1957, but have yet to find a single word about it. It’s like it never was. Like I’d only dreamed about it. Very vivid dreams, but no proof that they were anything but dreams.
A piece of my past is missing; and it’s not the only one. Around here, hardly anything has been left the way I remember it. This can be disconcerting. Much of what I knew is gone.
I wonder–if I dream a little deeper, can I find the way back to Oppenheim’s?
I’d like to thank that guy who chased away the bully.