going home again: nostalgia tour 2011

Before I came back to Rhode Island, I made my aunt drive down to our old neighborhood on the border between Yonkers and Bronxville. Facing my 40th birthday has made me nostalgic, and I find myself looking for the things I once knew. As a way of marking progress, perhaps? 

There were utility trucks and police cars in front of our old building, so we had to park a few blocks away and walk back. I wanted to take pictures. 

This is the entrance to the building I grew up in. Where this planting is, there used to be a single tall evergreen. Except for that, it looks pretty much the same. Our apartment is on the left (facing), second up from the bottom. There is an air conditioner hanging out the living room window. 

We went up to the front door and seeing these tiles, the same ones that were there in 1989 when we moved, was like being struck in the face with a giant marshmallow: Not completely unpleasant, but not something I need to have repeated. 

I remember seeing this sign on the building every time we left or returned. It took me many years to learn what “loitering” meant. I relay this to A. who is standing patiently a few feet away from me, eyeing the cop cars across the street. “Well, it’s basically what we’re doing right now,” she points out. 

I still have dreams about what was referred to as the “playground” around the back of the building. My sister and I spent many afternoons on the patch of blacktop that the property management designated for children. There were no trees back there, it was completely exposed to the elements. A metal slide (I remember it being called a “sliding pond” then - a regionalism?), the playground’s crown jewel, sat in the middle of this squared-off plot, and was white hot in the afternoon sun. 

“We have to go look,” I told A. She followed reluctantly, a few paces behind. 

I was glad to see some improvements since the 1980s. This photo was taken in the morning, though, and I am guessing that those plastic structures still get pretty warm by afternoon. 

Also, they have upgraded their security system since the chain-link fence and wrapped bungee cord method of old. 

We walked back toward the car and I took a few photos of the park across the street. A beautiful preserve with a meandering trail or two of its own. We spent many afternoons in the cool shade of its ancient trees. 

I don’t know what I was expecting to find on this little tour. I wanted to remember, I think, the feel of the place. The scale of things, I know, had become skewed in my memory. I have now made those adjustments. As for many, my childhood was a mixed bag - moments of discovery and joy and the shadows of some dark days, too. Perhaps this was an attempt to shine the light of years into the shadowy corners. 

I spend many nights in this place in my dreams. Toward the end of my first pregnancy, I dreamed nearly nightly of a little girl, always dressed in a pale pink party dress, her small pink lips unsmiling. Every night, she was in my care, and every night, I would somehow manage to lose her. I would be holding her hand, and then she’d be gone. And I’d run, frantically through whatever dream landscape presented itself - a wooded grove, an open sunlit field, a rocky, desolate terrain. More often that not, though, it was a dimly-lit apartment building with long hallway corridors and staircases, each floor identical to the one above it. I’d climb them over and over, rising higher but never reaching her.