The Old Neighborhood

Quote of the Day:

Anybody who has to step on the grass before we get to the bridge is a sissy.” –Smily, as we walked barefoot down the black asphalt of Woodhaven Street on countless summer days between 1978-1984

Not too long ago, TB had occasion to go home for a brief visit. Home. I don’t know if its the case for everyone, but for me, when I say home I mean foremost the home of my childhood. This is not to diminish in any way my current home, the one I expect my daughter will always think of first. But home, as in my parents’ home, is different. Its a place of refuge and certainty, the ultimate safety net, whereas my own home is not only those things but also a place of debt and chores, and a worriesome foundation.

I can still move through the house in Pascagoula blindfolded. I automatically avoid where the floor creaks, I intuitively push the door behind me with the exact force needed so that it closes firmly but without slamming, and I unconsciously kick the little block that holds one of the bedroom doors open thinking nothing of the winds that blew the old house slightly off its foundation. In my old bedroom the pennants have been long removed from the walls. Family wedding pictures have replaced old trophies and certificates of achievement. The paint and carpet are different. But its still my room. I think it recalls.

My little girl wanted to go outside so I took her first to the back yard where I could still see the dirt circle where I stood to hit stringball. You wouldn’t see it though. The grass grows much thicker there now and I annually congratulate my Dad on the lack of dead spots. Haven’t been any for awhile, I realize, as there aren’t any ballgames back there these days. Still, as I walked around the yard I  sensed that the grass (once a playing field) and the fig tree (formerly first base) remembered the old days.

We left the yard and walked down the street. For years that’s all my parents knew of my whereabouts. I was “down the street” and that was good enough for them. I knew if I went “across the bridge” I’d better tell them I planned to lest they have trouble finding me; but in retrospect, I don’t recall them ever looking. We walked past Smily’s house and I thought how the beautiful landscaping the new owners had put in had ruined one of our neighborhood’s better football fields. Then between Mr. Still’s and Mr. Lowell’s house, God rest their souls, and I instinctively glanced over to be sure “Duke”, God rest his enormous canine soul, wasn’t loose and ready to give chase. Past Tim and Todd’s where I learned how to play baseball, Goula-style, past Charlie Frew’s house where the dreaded coffin corner yucca bush used to be, the Gray’s whose house I helped gut after the fire and finally to Jeff’s where I had a crab claw pried out of my heel in the house laid out identically to my own. I wanted to cross the bridge even though I’d not claimed that prerogative, but they tore it down and walled off the woods it led through long ago. So home again.

All I could think of on the return trip was how quiet the old neighborhood was, outwardly. All of the sidewalks were perfectly edged, each house sported thick, green lawns, no cars were being worked on in the driveways and no bikes were lying about and no kids to ride them. The old neighborhood has grown old. Yet the sounds of the street of the 1970’s and 80’s echoed palpably about me, though you wouldn’t have heard them, the arguments, the bouncing balls and even the muted murmur of exchanged confidences and plots. The old neighborhood, I became certain, remembers us boys.

Just before we got home a guy drove by us and waved, did a double take, then waved again, still not certain who he’d seen. He got the same reaction from me. “Was that Todd?”, I asked aloud to no one, half expecting the neighborhood to respond. The guy parked next to Todd’s Dad’s house and got out. He looked back up the street toward us and I started to wave but I waited a heartbeat longer than socially expected and so he looked away before I could. Didn’t matter, I thought, “dude’s like 40 something–way too old to be him.” I think the old neighborhood just grinned.

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About travellinbaen

I'm a 40 year old lawyer living in Ridgeland, Mississippi. I'm several years and a couple hundred miles removed from most of my old running buddies so I started the blog to provide an outlet for many of the observations and ideas that used to be the subjects of our late night/happy hour/halftime conversations and arguments.
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23 Responses to The Old Neighborhood

  1. Mac says:

    “Anybody who has to step on the grass before we get to the bridge is a sissy.” –Smily, as we walked barefoot down the black asphalt of Woodhaven Street with me on countless summer days between 1978-1984″

    Were ya’ll going to see a dead body by chance?

  2. tinyd says:

    Just the other day I was trying to remember the name of the girl (that lived down the street from ya’ll) I used to play with when I was at my grandmother’s. Long before TB was on the radar…maybe it was Monique or something like that. Anyway – I remember the bridge, the woods, the snakes, all of it. Very nostalgic – but I’m sure the neighborhood remembers.

  3. Suzy says:

    This was wonderful! You need to print this out and give it to Daddy for Christmas – Better yet, print out your best ones (that you could share with him!) and put them in a folder – It wouldn’t have to be fancy – but he would love it! If you don’t do it – I will!

  4. Jessie Lou says:

    Very nice TB. I know what you mean about all the changes. I live in my old neighborhood and the kids have come in waves and generations. I remember Kas, John and Doug Grant “letting” me play baseball with them and the baseball diamond was permanently etched into their front yard. And that is the saddest thing to me about Katrina – the house IR grew up in is gone and the one we have he will never really consider as home. Nothing familiar to come back to.

    Suzy is absolutely right – you should print some of these stories for your Dad – I think he would be impressed. The best gifts are the ones you make yourself or in your case, the ones you wrote yourself. Do it while you still can.

  5. irvineredd says:

    Don’t worry about it JL, I’m just glad you now have a nicer house now.

  6. irvineredd says:

    Damn! I was redundant!

  7. quail09 says:

    TB….one of my best buddies at eastlawn and colmer moved from pinecrest to your street and inhabited one of the first houses built on that street…..we would go to the house before it was even finished and play and shoot our BB guns….it was the last house on the right..all the way down on the end…had a ditch that separated it from the neighborhood behind it (westwood?)…..anyway, we ended up shootin a window pane out of a house right across the street…..there was a controversy over whether we did it or the hoods with whom we were having a bb gun fight….didn’t matter, in the end we got blamed and had to give up our guns….good times

  8. RMac says:

    Happy to know I am not the only adult who considers home where I grew up. I realize that at this point in my life I have lived out of P-goula longer than I lived there and even with no family in residence, Pascagoula will always be home to me. Great reflection!

  9. bwbuzz says:

    A childhood home is where the heart is and the memories of a easier and treasured time. Keep up the good work TB!

  10. Thanks as always for the encouraging words everyone. But beware, if I ever get that book written I’ll bury you with emails until you buy one!

    Q, was your friend a “Richardson”? Their house was on the other side of the street and that ditch was eventually “bridged”. I used that bridge as a kid to go exploring all the houses on Eastwood and Westwood as they were being built, playing on the bulldozers and such…..circle of life…kumbaya

    RMac, thrilled to see you back for a visit. Can’t wait to hear about your big 4-0 trip. I’m working on my own too, but as you may recall you are much older than I so I have a few months yet to come up with a destination.

    TD–we had a Monique, a whole family of kids down their 2d to last on the left. Their folks are still their but I think all 5 kids are now in Baton Rouge.

  11. smilyj says:

    When my mom still lived in that house, I would go out at night sometimes and remember the old days. It was a strange feeling. I could remember everything vividly. I would pay a million dollars to buy that house back. The greatest neighbourhood a kid could possibly grow up in. I think the first kid I ever remember besides me or my brother was TB. Probably met the first time I was allowed to walk out the front door on my own. I wish my kid had somewhere like that to grow up in. Or a time like that even.

  12. yeah, I knew every man, woman, child and dog on that street. Now I barely know my next door neighbors first names and wouldn’t recognize the people across and down the street to save my life.

  13. smilyj says:

    Was Duke the source of the fear you once had of canines? I always assumed it was our peakapoo “Booger” that caused it. I remember Booger biting you once as a small child. And you always hated dogs until you grew up. Duke would make more sense. He was a big dog. But man, Booger sure was mean.

  14. tkh says:

    RMac comment made me think I’m fast approaching having lived out of Pascagoula longer than in it, but I still talk about people associated with Pascagoula as my friends from home as if we both still lived there.

  15. ZEEK says:

    Right on,Tb, right on.

  16. MDM says:

    Awesome writing TB……I believe all of us in some way can appreciate and reflect on all those great memories that bring us back to those meaningful times in our life…..and to be able to share them with our chidren now makes it more of a blessing……Keep up the great work TB….enjoying it….

  17. Blatboy says:

    Nail on the head hit, Mr. TB. While I was (quite) a few blocks away, I knew your street pretty well, and some of the people you mentioned. I’ve not as much reason to go back home anymore (I still call it home too, even though my family has left.) I always felt my neighborhood “knew”… and still does.

  18. Blat, good to see you over for a visit.

  19. Harmony says:

    I think this is my favorite of our posts. Absolute perfection!

  20. Harmony says:

    *your…your posts!

  21. Joyce Lowell Puckett says:

    You brought tears to my eyes! Thanks for the Stroll down memory lane! Dad and Duke both passed away at that house, as well as Mom.

  22. Diane drury says:

    This was great. I am a daughter of David Lowell and really enjoyed your tribute to the neighborhood…. And Duke!

  23. Rich says:

    Awesome tribute. We had a truly unforgetable childhood!

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