Waves of nostalgia intensified with each sweet, icy swallow. The cold, waxy, green-yellow cup and the sweet-tangy taste of frozen lemonade, sent me back to my childhood. It was a taste so familiar that it seemed to have been frozen in time. The stand still looked the same. An old clock, the plastic yellowed with age, hung on the inside wall. Nothing was fancy about the stand, it was just as I remembered it.
It was 4th of July weekend, the kids and I were visiting family. I had a romantic idea of having an “Authentic Rhode Island” holiday. I wanted to see old sights, taste the old treats, experience a glimpse of life the way it used to be. Twenty-one years had passed since I had lived in this small city, twenty-one years filled with changes and growing up.
We pulled out of the lemonade stand, driving towards the house I grew up in. The van seemed to instinctively know which way to turn. As we came to a stop in front of the house that I grew up in, I took one more gulp of the lemonade and relished in its familiarity. I put the car in park and stared out the window.
In front of me, was a house that looked so much smaller than I had remembered. A bungalow or cottage according to the sales records. There was a white sign with black lettering declaring that this house was no longer filled with a family but empty property owned by the airport corporation to be used as part of the airport expansion. The house paint was not as bright as it once was. The windows boarded up. The fence falling down. Weeds had started to grow in the cracks and crevices. It sat in a sad, lonely state. This house once filled to the brim with family, faith, hope, dreams, and love was looked so empty.
I looked across the street to our neighbor’s house. It no longer existed. In its place was an empty, grass lot. Down the street and around the block, many other homes had succumbed to the same fate as my neighbor’s house. Houses that were inhabited by grumpy neighbors, messy children, friendly families were all gone. Demolished for the airport expansion. Phantoms of memories rose at every corner and in every empty space. It was a sad and eerie feeling.
A voice from the backseat declared the urgent need of a bathroom, startling me back to the present time. Another voice inquired when we were heading back to the hotel. One more voice, happily made noises from his car seat. My past faded and the present reappeared in vivid, deep color. The world seemed full of hope, dreams, and full of life.
I took one more glance at the house before driving away. I might not see the old house standing again. If I return to the neighborhood, it may be a shiny, new runway for the airport. That is okay.
The memories of my childhood, good and bad, do not live in an old house or in an old neighborhood. The empty, grass lots have not erased the laughter, friendship, and memories made in those spaces. Memories and lessons learned are kept close and held in mind and in my heart. Many hopes and dreams have come to fruition, in mistakes, successes, and with time.
My present place is a wonderful life, filled with constant activity, overabundance of love and laughter, lessons STILL needing to be learned. I was happy I had the chance to show my children the old house and my neighborhood. They may not have appreciated it but that is okay. For me it was a celebrations of the past and the future and of lemonade. It was a memory that weaved my past and present together and will be stored away in my heart.