I have always appreciated the warm fascinations about little towns and country roads with nothing on them but pavement and the occasional car that drives by on the way to go someplace else. There are towns like this, so small and unheard of, yet, they do exist. They have little stores and maybe a barber shop where the old men gather.
They probably have a diner in town, which everyone goes to and they have pies there, like peach cobbler or maybe even key-lime with a little puff of whip cream swirled on top.
I have seen places like this. I have seen them through younger eyes and as a different person but I’ve grown since then.
There are places in the world that are detached from everything else. They’re tucked away in the backwoods and in different parts of the country. I think about places like this. I think about little towns where everyone says the strangest, yet simplest things, like “Good morning,” or “Hello.” I’ve seen places like this. I’ve heard people say “Hello” and watched people greet strangers in the most welcoming way.
I sometimes wonder about towns like the one my Mother came from. She grew up in Carlsbad, New Mexico. I was only there once as a young teen but my memory of this is far from clear.
I think I’d like to see this place now through the eyes of an adult. I’m sure there have been some changes since my last visit. I’m sure the landscapes have had more than just a facelift since then. Most of the world is a different place now. Then again so are we.
We grow. We do this all day, every day. We learn and we live. We experience new things and reminisce about the old as if our memory has the same taste buds and appreciates the same flavor.
I went back to a place called The Circle E Diner, which was a place that I used to go to back when I lived on the farm. The food was better then. The service was always friendly. Then again, I suppose the people that ran it when I was 17 are much different than the people that run this place now. Thirty years changes things. Life changes things. You, me, and everything around us will go through changes. This is unavoidable.
I have this idea about my elementary school. I’d like to go for a visit and walk through the hallways. I wonder if I would remember where any of my classrooms were. I know I would remember my first grade classroom—or at least, I would be close to accurate. I’m not sure where my other classes were but throughout the years I have had dreams about my fifth grade classroom. I can see it as it was. The lights in the classroom are off in my dream. The bottom windows did not open in an up or down way. They only tilt outwards, which is how they are in my dream.
I dream that I am near the door at the back of the classroom. There are papers and art taped to the wall. There is chalked writing on the chalkboard and the spring-like sunlight is moving in from the windows to give the room a peaceful yet, dim glow. The wind from the opened windows moves in to gently blow the papers taped to the wall.
There is no sound. I am not walking but yet, I am moving towards the front of the room. I am somehow brought out into the hallway and floating towards the double doors that lead to the outside, which are right down the hall from the classroom.
There is a bright light outside the doors. I wonder where the light is coming from but I never make it that far. I always wake up before I reach it.
Dreams have a way of doing this sometimes.
We move towards them but life somehow interrupts and leads us someplace else.
I wonder what my old schools look like now. I wonder what the classrooms look like or if the cafeterias still smell the same. I wonder if they changed the tiled floors, which were outdated when I was there.
There was a visit I took to the high school in the town of Hancock, New York. I was only there once. I had to take a test there. As a matter of fact, this was the only time I took a regents exam. As a matter of fact, I’m not even sure if they still have exams like this. Do they?
I never liked tests. I never liked the bubble sheets they gave us. They were the kind that we had to mark with a No. 2 pencil otherwise the answers would not be recognized on the scantron sheet.
The idea behind the No. 2 pencil was always interesting. You could tell because the pencil has “No. 2” on the side.
I never knew there was a No. 1 pencil. In fact, I still don’t know. Are there No. 3 or No. 4 pencils? How many different pencils are there? Either way, I still hate tests.
Back when I was young and less interested in school (especially if I was high) I would mark my answers in pretty designs.
The teachers never really said anything. I suppose they cared as much about my education as I did at the time. Either way, everything is computerized now.
I wonder what the inside of my old junior high looks like. I wonder if I would still feel the chill of nervousness when I walked through the doors. As I write to you, I laugh because I wonder if the pull-stations for the fire alarms are at the same height (not that I pulled them often) and I wonder what the lockers look like in the hallways. I had a few different lockers but I’m not sure why. I never carried a book. I rarely went to class and I never did my homework or made the grades.
The world looked so differently back then. And of course the world looked differently. I was viewing everything from the eyes of a child.
I suppose it would be nice to see things as they were. I remember the way I felt the first time I stepped into the entryways of my junior high school. Everything was so big, including the other kids. I was so small and intimidated.
I took a drive through the old neighborhood with my daughter when she was very young. I showed her my old junior high. My daughter mentioned how big the school looked, which was funny because it seemed so small to me. I suppose that means I’ve grown.
By the way, I saw one of the kids that used to bully me when I was in 7th grade. I swore this kid was huge. He was an animal. I was sure of this until I ran into him during my young adulthood.
I caught up with him on a line at a taco place. He did not recognize me but I recognized him. As a grown man, he was much shorter than me. He still looked the same. And I still hated him.
This was amazing to me. I couldn’t figure out why I was so afraid of him. He was small and bony. He was somewhat gnarly looking and pale. I wasn’t going to say anything but he spoke first. He spoke the way people speak or complain about the service to strangers as they wait in line
I told him I remembered him.
Told him he used to kick the shit out of me when I was a little kid. He told me I’m better off forgetting about things like this. He said this in the exact same voice he used when he used to pick on me.
Truth is he was right. I am better off forgetting about things like this, which I did. I totally forgot all about this as soon as I punched him in the face.
I think of all the places I’ve seen throughout my life and how I’ve aged since then. I’ve grown and that’s a good thing.
The late comedian Mitch Hedberg once told a joke about someone offering to show him a picture. They asked Hedberg, “Hey, do you want to see a picture of me when I was younger?” to which Hedberg replied, “Every picture is a picture of you when you were younger.”
Hedberg was right about this but sometimes, I like to look back and see how much I’ve grown. Even if it’s just a little bit.