It is strange to remember so far back when the world was different. The teenage years and its memories seem to blur with the interference of time and age. I was so young . The world was ahead of me. I was frightened, yes, but I was still so absolutely resilient.
The Old house on Merrick Avenue is also lifetimes away from me. And my old upstairs bedroom; I remember the sliding doors at my closet, the dark hardwood flooring, the hiding spots behind my desk, my stereo and television, the black-light posters on the wall, the trippy colored lamps that flashed light around my room at night, not to mention, the secret hole in the wall that no one knew about. All of this was so long ago.
I used to climb out my side window, which led out to the roof above my garage. From there, I climbed up to the top of the roof—my eyes staring outward with the intensity of confused youth while looking out at the mysteries of my town and the nighttime sky.
I watched the cars pass up and down on Merrick Avenue. I would sip gin and smoke cigarettes. I smoked Marlboro Reds, to be exact.
My long, strawberry blonde hair blew in the breeze. At night, if the winds were quiet and the neighborhood was tame, I could hear the cheers that came from Hoftsra Stadium, which was approximately a mile down the road from me.
My home faced west. Front Street was south of us. Heading north, Earl Ovingtion Boulevard stretched from Merrick Avenue, passed the only set of tall glass buildings in the town, and ended at Hempstead Turnpike, intersecting right across from the main entrance to the Nassau Coliseum.
Sometimes when I climbed up to the roof, I would look around and wonder if I would ever move far away from this place. I was old enough to understand that life was on its way; however, I was still too young to truly understand the concept of death.
One morning, I woke up earlier than usual. The sun had already begun to take the sky. The springtime air was moving closer to warm summer winds. I was awake and could not go back to sleep. It was too early to phone a friend. It was too early to head downstairs and watch television in the den.
Instead of waiting for someone to wake, I decided to get dressed and take a walk. I remember this morning clearly. I slid on a pair of loosely-fit, ripped jeans with scattered bleach stains and holes at the thigh and knees. I threw a t-shirt over my head. I put on a pair of socks and slid my boots on.
Heading quietly down the steps from my bedroom, I turned left passed the family room and then through the sliding glass doors in my kitchen. I did this to keep from making noise. The steps from my room creaked a little, but the front door made too much noise. That would wake someone for sure, which is why I chose to leave through the back sliding glass doors.
The doors slid open to the deck in my backyard. The Old Man had already begun the seasonal restoration of our yard. He set up the lounge chairs. He set up the table with the umbrella, and the chairs that went around it.
The cover to our wide, oval-shaped pool was untied and about to come off. The water level in the semi in-ground pool was below the pool’s strainer. The water was slightly green with a large black nylon cover stretched over most of the pool. The underbelly of the cover was blue and there was a large inflatable pillow in the middle.
It was warm. I could smell the air. I could smell the changing of seasons. I could smell the honeysuckles as they began to bloom. The trees were green again and the cold ground had finally thawed. It was a good time. The summer was on its way.
I imagined that soon enough, the school year would come to an end. My days would be long and unencumbered. Summer would give way to summertime sounds, such as the loud chattering of cicadas that buzzed from the limbs of trees.
It was a different world then. Life was different. People were different. In a sense, we were more simplified then. We were more action and less technology.
Fashion was different too. I cannot say fashion was better. I remember two-tone jeans. Girls wore white Keds sneakers with white scrunchy socks.
They had high-flying hair, sprayed up with grape smelling Aussie hairspray. This by the way, is a smell I could never forget.
I remember cowboy boots being a big thing. Justin boots were popular. So was Dan Post boots. My kind of boots were less fashionable. Mine were steel-tip and beaten up. At the time, my fashion sense was lacking. I wore the same kind of jeans. I wore the same shirts, boots, and the same leather jacket as everyone else in my small group of friends. My outfits were more like uniforms to describe my youthful rebellion.
I stood in my backyard and felt the early sun come upon my face. In my youth, my face was slightly freckled when the sun touched it. My front teeth were bucky; I was thin and painfully young looking. I had so many thoughts churning inside my head, but with no way to express myself, I submersed my life in the wild behavior of a young, suburban punk.
On this day, however, I was not a punk. I was not a burnout or a trouble maker. On this day, I was just a kid that wanted to take a walk.
Across the street from my home was once part of an airfield, which shut down some time after the Korean War. The field had trails and different paths. Wild rabbits burrowed in the tall brush. Often, the small rabbits would run when I passed by. I liked these fields. They were a good place for me.
I crossed the street and walked over a small chin-height dirt mound that surrounded the large plot of land. Heading down the small hill, I walked along the old cemented road, which could have been a runway, at one point.
I never saw a pheasant before. I knew there was a bird sanctuary nearby. The sanctuary was named Santini’s. I had heard that poachers would hunt for quail and pheasant in the sanctuary but I never saw many pheasants or quail in the field across from my home. As I walked by, a colorfully long-tailed pheasant flew out from a bush.
I walked for several hours. I walked from one side of the field to the other. I was not lonely or concerned with a crowd. I was not thinking of someone in particular. I was not desperate or uncomfortable. I was a kid being a kid. Minus the cigarettes, I was just a kid exploring and thinking about the amazing concept of girls how pretty they smelled.
It is strange to think about my family as they were back then. They were young too. It is also strange to remember the different branches of my family. We gathered more often then. We did more together. Same as the world was different—my family was different too.
Maybe I was just too young to know about the problems we had. Maybe I was too young or too ignorant to inquire. Maybe I was too focused elsewhere to see the passive/aggressive sarcasms. I never knew why this one didn’t get along with that one. And even still, if one didn’t get along with another, when something happened with the family . . . everybody was there.
Years went on and people passed away. The matriarchs and patriarch were gone; the mothers that made their sons talk it out, and the fathers that told their kids, “You’re going and that’s the end of it,” are all gone.
So many have moved away.
I know I have.
I moved several times in my life.
Currently, I am still somewhat in an unpacking phase.
I have a new house in a new town with new neighbors I have yet to see or speak to.
I speak with some of my family, but those I speak with, are spoken to less frequently.
It would be nice though if all of us, alive or dead, could have one day back exactly as it was.
Just one day . . .