October 21, 2008

Fall Recollections from Dissider Bowes*

I don't remember everything I should. I am convinced that whatever part of my brain is responsible for filing the bits of my life away is somehow faulty and accidentally deletes every third or fourth thing. I'm reminded of the fact that I'm not alone whenever I heard someone admit that they have to think for a second before they're able to accurately answer how old they are, what they did last Thursday or how much money they make. I can't remember any of those without thinking. For the record I'm 35, last Thursday might as well have been 1983 and the money thing is none of your business. It's odd, though. When the weather turns cold, I'm flooded with memories.

I remember football. Every fall, every kid on my street would put aside whatever territorial differences existed and play football on Sundays. The games were always touch but they'd devolve into full tackle by the second quarter. It was just cold enough for your hands to hurt which made catching the football - already a challenge for small hands - tough. We became intimately familiar with the texture of the football smashing into our faces, the feel of the cold hard ground on our backs, the scraping of jeans on the brittle brown grass. We'd limp home for hot chocolate, nursing our wounds, in time to catch whatever real football game was on that afternoon.

When the weather turned cool, the mosquitoes died and the thick underbrush around the bayou just beyond our neighborhood disappeared. Each fall, several of us would venture into it, walk the barely-trod paths on top of the small cliffs that rose above the water. It was an adventure only possible for two months a year. During the summer it was too hot and the bugs were terrible. During the winter it was cold and wet. So during the fall we explored the bayou trying to find proof that it was indeed haunted as we'd long suspected. We never discovered any definitive proof but we creeped ourselves out in the process without fail. For the bayou was always home to a serial killer or deranged lunatic. In our heads at least.

I was maybe 8 or 10, out playing with Bill. Bill was my best friend. We were born two days apart and lived down the street from each other. Bill came to my wedding and while I haven't seen him since, my mom makes sure I'm caught up on what's going on with Bill. Honestly, I really miss him. Anyway, I was playing with Bill down the street and my mom came out to tell me that it was about time to come in. I told her sure, I'd be in in a few minutes and asked if she'd make me some hot chocolate and put my favorite record on. I had dozens of the old LPs that had music and stories on them almost like recorded novelizations of movies. I have no idea what my favorite one was but I remember having a favorite and I vaguely recall what the cover looked like. A few minutes after making my request, I headed home, walked through the front door and instantly I remember being surrounded by this wave of, well, homeyness. The record was on, the snaps and pops, words and music coming from my dad's giant speakers and my mom came into our wood-paneled living room from the kitchen holding a cop of hot chocolate, complete with big marshmallows (though I preferred the small ones).

Aside from a brief return visit six months after I moved away from my old neighborhood 18 years ago, I haven't been back. And while I would like to show my wife and kids where I grew up, I'm not entirely convinced I want to go back. The few memories I've got that my brain hasn't seen fit to throw away are pretty good ones. I'm not sure I want to risk altering them.

What are your most powerful memories of the fall? And can you ever go home again? Without jeopardizing the memories you've held on to?

*When I was a kid, I called myself Dissider Bows. I'm not completely sure about that myself, but in retrospect, it sounds like my first and last names run together by a two year old without a firm grasp on the English language.

Posted by Chris at October 21, 2008 6:05 AM

I never go home, as home now is where my Hubby and Daughter are.
But memories, well, I grew up on Cape Cod and fall memories mean walking and playing on tourist abandoned beaches in the sunshine.
I also climbed trees, walked through swamps and rode my bike all over town.
I was never home, because home was not a good or safe place to be.
No, home is where your heart is.

Posted by: Maribeth at October 21, 2008 7:38 AM

I spent half my childhood where there was no real weather transition between summer and fall, and it wasn't until I was a teenager that I moved to Michigan and got the whole four-seasons effect - so my youth doesn't really focus on the weather when I think of fall, the way it does now (Now, I *LOVE* fall - because summer gets so freakin' hot, and I love the crisp days where you can wear jeans without boiling from the heat and I can get my hoodies back out - whoo!).

I live less than a mile from the house we moved to when I was 13 years old. I drive past it nearly daily. My kids will likely go to the high school I went to - and this is the town my husband has lived in most all of his life. Sooo. Much as I don't adore it here, we're here.

(And when I hear the "you can't go home again" - it reminds me of GROSS POINTE BLANK where he finds his hom has been turned into a convenience store - "You can't go home again, but you can shop there.")

Posted by: Sarah at October 21, 2008 7:43 AM

I say don't go back. I still live and work very near to where I grew up. I still have family that lives on the same street where I lived, and the changes make me sad.(My family still owns the house I grew up in but we rent it out ) What was once a vibrant neighborhood of families with lots of kids riding bikes and skateboarding and playing tag and catching fireflies and sledding down the hill across the street from my house...has become a decrepit, run down, drug infested street. Some of the old timers are still there and they will talk about how the homes were sold to slum lords and are now Section 8. Or rented to college students who have no respect and have loud parties and destroy things.
The row homes that existed on the street behind me, where many of my friends lived, were condemned and torn down.

I have such fond memories of growing up on Darling St. (thats the actual name) and it makes me sad to see whats become of it.

Better to keep your wonderful memories and share them with your kids, keep it a magical place.

BTW- I have the same memory problems.

Posted by: Lisa at October 21, 2008 7:59 AM

I am home - living in the home my family moved to when I was 1; now living in it with my husband and son.
Fall was always Saturday afternoon football games and crisp "sweater weather". Watching classmates play in the town football league against each other, moving on to high school games played so close I can see the field through the trees when the leaves are gone. Walking down to the field with friends to see if anyone was playing a pickup game that we'd get into. Fall weather makes me want to sit outside, soak up the last of the sun and breathe in the fresh air (except now it gives me a throat clearing thing) and go to a football game!

Posted by: NancyJak at October 21, 2008 8:03 AM

I love this story. I can almost smell the hot chocolate. This is barely relevant but I think this is why I was so excited to get a house. I want that specific kind of memory for my son.

To answer your question: I grew up in Southern California. What's fall?

Posted by: Stephanie at October 21, 2008 8:04 AM

I have tons of fond memories from my childhood, and I loved riding bikes. We rode everywhere. I didn't have a great bike, but I could sure move that thing. I loved coming in at dark from a full evening of riding bikes through the neighborhood and dirt trails, tired and rough. We always had cases of cheap soda and I'd drink one in one gulp.

Posted by: Brad at October 21, 2008 8:59 AM

There is now a freeway running through what was once our living room in the New York Mohawk Valley.

I haven't been back in over 20 years and then it was for a funeral. There's no one left there now to return for (except for one online friend in case she's reading this).

It was beautiful country. Fall in the Adirondacks is spectacular. Still, it isn't worth the winter that follows.

Posted by: Ann Adams at October 21, 2008 9:33 AM

the fall always reminds me of when i was a teenager and we would wander around downtown Manhattan for hours and hours almost everyday. hanging outside CBGB's smoking cigarettes and just being teenagers. or hanging in the park down there for what seemed like days. we'd do this all year round but for some reason the smell of a cold, crisp fall day brings me back immediately. i think its from the smell of the street meat wagons. the ones with the pretzels and the nuts. some kind of association. who knows. its amazing how that can be such a strong power of suggestion.

Posted by: madmomny at October 21, 2008 10:06 AM

Loved the blog post today made me feel like a kid again :)

Although, my family was a military family so a lot of moving around. But I would say that home was wherever my family was stationed at the time.

Fall and Halloween have always been my favorite time of year I truly agree. As far as the question can you go home again?...No, I don't think you can except within your memories. It is always different when you return...trust me :)

We should though just for old times’ sake have some hot chocolate (with the small marshmallows) and kick back and enjoy the fall.

Posted by: Julie Andel at October 21, 2008 10:40 AM

My mom still lives in the same house I grew up in...so yep, I go "back home" every single Sunday. I moved about 40 minutes away and my best friend from back then (she used to live across the street) moved 2 minutes from me and now our children are all friends...so still have the same best friend too. Oh, did I mention I married a man I met in 10th grade? LOL One could say I don't do well with change :)

Posted by: Shannen at October 21, 2008 11:17 AM

Let the guesses commence about your last name :) I have to say, Dissider Bowes is perfect -- it -does- sound like your full name but I think it would be impossible to guess.

Posted by: Laura GF at October 21, 2008 1:01 PM

I remember Halloween. Dressing up in my costume, having chili for dinner, setting out our jack o'lanterns and then taking off, with all of the neighborhood kids, and going door to door. I remember always having to go over to Monroe Avenue, because they had the best candy in the neighborhood. And having to take the long way home, down Van Buren, because Dr. and Mrs. Sheppler gave away homemade popcorn balls and caramel dipped apples every year, inviting us in for a cup of hot cider. And being allowed to go in and being allowed to eat their homemade goodies because everyone in the neighborhood knew them. I remember every single year the Schultz's turned their garage into a "haunted house" - and the year that George (he didn't like being called Mr. Schultz, he said "that's my dad") popped up out of a coffin and scared little Ricky so bad he peed his pants - and for the first time ever, his big brother (whose name I don't remember) actually stood up for him and said if anyone teased him, he'd kick their ass. I remember he said ass.

I took my kids to show them. And I regret it. The block that seemed so big and magical shrank over the years, and all of the houses are run down and in need of landscaping work and a paint job. The two mulberry trees that grew in my front yard that my friends and I spent so much time in have been cut down. The ice cream shop/arcade that we used to walk to is long gone, and now a used car lot sits there. Melissa's house, where I had a timeshare as a kid (that is how it seemed) burned down. They didn't rebuild, and now it's an empty dirt lot full of trash. The open desert that we used to play in is gone, filled with apartments. You can't see the barn where the Shepplers had their horses that we used to go pet and feed apples and carrots and sugar cubes. Washington goes all of the way through now, and it's a major through fair. The street corner my house sat on, where we played touch foot ball games in the street and my dad drug out my brother's BMX ramps out so the kids could jump their bikes is now a divided 6 lane road, with cars whizzing by at 45 mph.

It was magical when I was a kid. And now? My son asked me "what was it like growing up in the 'hood?" It's heart breaking.

Cherish the memories and don't go back.

Posted by: Mindy at October 21, 2008 1:03 PM

My mom always made a big deal out of Halloween, so I remember assembling candy packets to hand out (people hit the jackpot at our house) and going trick or treating in my neighborhood. She also made a big deal out of football, so during football season we got to have soda and snacks (at halftime) that we didn't usually get to have.

I grew up around here, so technically I'm still home. I drove by my old neighborhood recently though, and it was weird. The street felt different, and they have changed the name of the development.

Posted by: bad penguin at October 21, 2008 1:53 PM

Fall is simply spectacular in Maine, where I grew up. I remember jumping in the piles of leaves my dad made while raking. When he was ready to clean them up, I'd hold one end of the plastic tarp while my brother held another and my dad would rake the leaves onto it. We'd all tug the tarp over to the mulch pile, which got really huge by the time all the leaves had fallen in November.

Before it got too late in the season, our family would head up to Mt. Katahdin to do some hiking. We'd take Roaring Brook trail up to Chimney Pond in the morning, then have lunch while on the look out for moose. We'd then climb a little higher to the tree line and take in the view a few places before someone would get queasy about the height and we'd all head down.

I also remember my dad chopping wood for the winter and the first few rainy November days we'd light fires in the wood stove and sit around reading. Needless to say, the wood stove has been modernized to gas, we're all too old and creaky to climb any mountains, and I don't get home during the fall anymore. But I think my dad still rakes the leaves by himself, and probably will as long as he's standing.

Posted by: Laura at October 21, 2008 3:40 PM

That weather you speak of? It is like that here in Houston right now. Those two precious months to go bike riding, hiking, playing at the park for hours on end.....it doesn't smell like Pasadena because the breeze is pushing from the northwest instead of the southeast.....the mosquitos are gone, but you don't quite need a jacket yet.

If you guys ever do come back here to Houston for a visit, I hope we get to meet the Cactus Family. Be prepared, Houston has changed a lot in 18 years.

Posted by: Jen at October 21, 2008 6:40 PM

I have this very vivid memory of being 3 (yep) and learning that you could take "helicopters" from trees and break them in half, split open the part with a seed, take out the seed, and stick it on your nose to be a rhinoceros.

That was at daycare, though. The only other real fall memory I have is of gold leaves. I never had much use for fall, I guess, except Halloween.

Posted by: alektra at October 21, 2008 6:45 PM

It must be fall memories day in blogworld - you're the second one I've read today. I do know exactly what you mean about going back to places from your childhood. In many ways the saying is true - you can never go back - disillusioning our memories can be really sad.

Posted by: Heather at October 21, 2008 7:04 PM

The fall.....A warm friend I love, but it makes me sad at the same time. So many memories of fall specifically. The sweaters, the smell of fire's, the football games played in the middle of the streets, the trees dropping their leaves. I drove by my childhood home shortly before Christmas last year and it happened to be vacant. Naturally I poked around. My grandma lived with us and she died about 12 years ago. I wanted to curl up in her room and just cry......I bake a lot of goodies in the fall, just for the smell, it takes me home to a more simple time. When I look into my daughters eyes and watch her stand at the counter putting marsh mellows in her hot chocolate, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of both happiness and complete sadness at the same time, for these moment are so short, so precious, and then so gone.

Posted by: Shannon at October 22, 2008 2:38 AM

I was a severe asthmatic as a kid so I never really got out much in autumn, or spring...or summer for that matter but, fall is still my favorite season. My favorite memories of fall revolve around college. I guess it was just being away from Rhode Island. Coming from RI, Minnesota seemed like the other side of the planet and when I studied abroad in London, there was no better feeling than a brisk fall walk through Hyde Park, either on the way to or from school.

I went back to my sleepy little college town several years ago. It was nice, but not the same. You can never really go home again. Perceptions change, we all grow and have to accept that things are not going to stay gold, like many of the memories we hold onto so tightly.


Posted by: JackassJimmy at October 22, 2008 6:04 AM