Friday, April 29, 2011

Reflections - The House That Built Me!

Although life is pretty busy at the moment - kids sports, colleges, etc - I love - when time allows to reflect on the past and document what I can. Whenever I pass through Ridgewood it's impossible not to look back and remember the various parts of ones life. Every time I leave to come home, I always feel like I missed the opportunity to take a great picture. I keep forgetting to snap photos of  classmate's old homes like the Perdue and Worthington houses - classic and familiar as they always were and still are. It's not simply about reflecting but rather gathering facts, great stories and documenting a place in time - our time. It'll be a document for my kids and grandkids.

Recently, Caryn, myself and the kids headed down to the Jersey Shore to spend Easter. On the way home we got off the Parkway at Route 17 Sunday afternoon. If you're from Bergen County NJ you'll know that driving around Bergen County on a Sunday is a very pleasant experience! The "Bergen County Blue Law" as it is known - prevents retailers from opening on Sundays - in particular the malls (of which there are many!) It's an incredible thing when you think about it - in an age when its all about the money its remarkable this sort of thing has held up for this long!

We headed down 17 past the familiar landmarks including The Fireplace and stopped for gas. Remember the Grand Way? (it's long been a K-Mart). As kids we used to cross busy Route 17 (before the overpass was built) to get to the Grand Way to buy the latest music, model kits and turn in our found deposit bottles for money to buy baseball cards (at a nickel a pack you could buy a hec of a lot of baseball cards!).

When we reached Van Emburgh Ave, I couldn't fight the urge (never can!) to stop at Glen School again to get some new pictures. Every time I pull into the parking lot there, its like stepping back in time. What a fun place and time in history to attend elementary school. When I look at pictures from when I grew up is it just me or were those days the sunniest days ever? My daughter Jennie definitely gets a kick out of me when I'm in this zone. Every time I get home I think "Ugh, I should have taken this picture or that!" or "Ugh, I forgot again to take a picture of Worthington's house!"

When I'm walking around the school, I often wonder what people are thinking as I look for a new angle to shoot photos. I love taking pictures that I can later use as "Then and Now" subjects.

After about a dozen new photos, we then took the obligatory turn down my old street - it never ceases to amaze me how utterly small it all seems. Did the neighborhood really seem that much bigger when I was little?

Passing Cindy Pomeroy's house (her dad still lives there!) I recalled the old willow tree we used to climb and sit in - it stood on the corner of their property. I spied the spot where the old garage was of their neighbor the Adomovitz who had lived next door - behind it I kissed Cindy for the first time (she'd probably kill me for sharing that but then again maybe not!) We used to ride our bikes and talk a lot - I remember thinking about that kiss for days afterward - it was so hard to accomplish it but I was on cloud 9! I was teased by kids down the street that I spent too much time with a girl - we were just little kids! (hey I played with my friends a lot too!)

Life's a collection - it's bits of memories, photographs, landmarks, mementos. Some of us actually return to Ridgewood only to find our homes completely gone! Other homes absurdly added on to. So amidst all the change that time inevitably brings, its always a nice feeling when you still recognize some of the places and landmarks where you grew up.

While driving down Auburn Avenue, I recalled all the baseball games and football games and sleep-outs and running bases and the summer night games we used to play in our yards and in the street with Jimmy O'Brien, Kent, Bruce, Mark and Brian Meneghin. You wanted Jimmy O'Brien on your team! We had a blast on that street.

I find it amazing that I still love writing about all of this - I mean how much can you say right? But the more I research and the more people share with me, the more things come back to me. I told myself 2 years ago that I'd keep writing about "Glen School" until I run out of material but it seems to be endless! The fun of it is discovering new stories and old, unseen photographs.

In February, I was watching the Grammies with my daughter Jennie and she told me about a song that was nominated - the song is titled "The House That Built Me". It's by a country singer named Miranda Lambert - I'm not a huge country fan - I don't know why there's a need to say that but wow I heard Lambert sing this song and it really struck a chord with me. Right up my alley ya know? Listen to the words and you'll see why if you're even just a little bit sentimental. I realize it sounds silly, but driving by my old house I saw my mom planting flowers, my dad cutting the grass, my sisters, me and my friends, our pets, my dad chasing one of my sister's boyfriends down the driveway - so many things. Jim O'Brien and I used to set up endless army battles with our soldiers at his house, my house. It was where I learned of the greatest and the saddest moments of falling in love. Its where I had wonderful neighbors and friends - moments etched in my memory forever. Its where I felt so free and happy. Its where my dad was at his best and where he fell ill - 858 Auburn Ave was indeed truly the house that built ME.

Above is an early 1970's photo of my old house at 858 Auburn Ave! I seem to recall we had so many bright sunny days growing up!

Above is the same house as it looked in December, 2008. Not many trees left. A lot of memories were made there!

My mom leaning on the fence in the front yard after a day of planting. I remember always asking my mom to remove her eyeglasses for a photo so people could see her face! I remember my dad putting that fence in.

Above, me in the back yard with a basket on my head - circa 1959! There were some great summers in that yard! My sister took this photo.


I know they say - you can't go home again.
I just had to come back one last time.
Ma'am, I know you don't know me from Adam,
But these handprints on the front steps are mine.

And up those stairs - in that little back bedroom
Is where I did my homework and learned to play guitar.
And I bet you didn't know - under that live oak,
My favorite dog is buried in the yard.

I thought if I could touch this place or feel it,
This brokenness inside me might start healing.
Out here its like I'm someone else,
I thought that maybe I could find myself
If I could just come in I swear I'll leave.
Won't take nothing but a memory,
From the house that built me.

You leave home, you move on and you do the best you can.
I got lost in this whole world and forgot who I am.
I thought that maybe I could find myself.
If I could walk around I swear I'll leave.
Won't take nothing but a memory
from the house that built me.

Another song that always strikes a sentimental chord with me is from one of my favorite Beatles albums -"Rubber Soul". The song is titled "In My Life", written and sung by John Lennon (though Paul McCartney's attached to it too!). The words to this one are special to me.


There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends
I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
there is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Yup, I am an eternal sap - not a sentimental fool but I am a sap - no apologies here. My thanks to everyone for making me feel that this is all worth doing or least making me think so!!

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