On Friday I went to visit an old family friend and neighbor from when I was little. I ran into his wife Thursday night at the grocery store, and she invited me over to visit. Their names are Wayne and Beverly, and they live in a house across from the house I lived in with my mom until we moved when I was 12. They were very close friends with my grandparents and still treat me like one of their own grandchildren (not that they need any more -- they have 26!!)
As I was driving through the neighborhood, I was amazed at how much it changed in the ten years since I left. It seems so much smaller - the streets are all shorter and the houses are much closer together than I remember them. And there are many more houses than I ever remember being there. The empty lots where we would play kickball or tag are missing, instead filled with more houses than should comfortably fit. Urban sprawl has invaded the one place I always imagined was sacred.
Even the house belonging to my grandparents used to be a lovely pea green color; now it's a light purply-blue with plum colored shutters. And that too looks so much smaller than it was when I was 8, and I bet the rusty swingset isn't in the backyard anymore, either.
It's hard for me to realize that this isn't quite the same neighborhood it was when I lived there. To me, the whole place is stuck in a time-warp. I should be able to drive down the street and know exactly which mailbox I ran into on my bike, or go to the annual chili cookout in January in a neighbor's garage, or follow the smell of bonfire smoke and roast hotdogs and marshmallows on a stick I found in the yard, or slip 'n slide in the front yard of my grandparents' house with all my cousins and friends, or have a Kool-Aid stand by my house, or know exactly which house to avoid on Halloween because the lady is crazy and gives out apples and sewing kits.
But alas, it's changed and I've changed and it will never be the same neighborhood as when I was growing up. Wayne's health hasn't been all that great for the past few years, and I know that when the inevitable does finally happen, it will not only be an event of great sadness for many, many people, but it will further the distance between my present and my past. I don't think I'm ready for this.