A sackful of disjointed recollection – a blast from the past from october 2011

So, I’ll go back to trying to explain the things I love about Portugal, or at least about the Portugal I grew up in.

Mind you, the things I love, the things that bring tears to my eyes, the things I remember so vividly that if I close my eyes, I can imagine myself back there, are not only highly personal (meaning I don’t think anyone else, even born in the same general time and place would share them) but also highly time/place bound (meaning Portugal nowadays would not be any more likely to bring these experiences to someone, than any other place in the world would. And probably less.)

I was reminded of what’s really important, what’s really part and parcel of who I am, the things I really miss, when someone posted a video of the area I was born and raised in on Facebook. It doesn’t appear to be on youtube, so I can’t link it here. The still shot before the video starts is of two rows of houses flanking the camera – tall houses, flat against the street. By coincidence, the house only half shown on the right was my grandmother’s house, where I was born and lived till I was six. In fact, the door – now a garage door, because the house has been sold to strangers and modernized and completely changed – on the lower right hand corner was the door to the part of the house where I was born.

The rest of the movie goes on to show mostly apartment buildings – btw, part of the interesting point in this is that the person narrating it, from outside the area and from a heavily populated part of Porto, considered this walk bucolic and relaxing, even though most of the area is high rises and there are now no green areas except the parks. (It also shows tons of palm trees, which didn’t exist when I was growing up. Oh, okay, maybe one specialized type of palms, but they didn’t look like any of the palm trees in tropical postcards, which a lot of the new imports do. The type of palms that grew in the area before was more straggly, less sightly and mostly viewed as a sort of binding material for sheaves or produce and such. Fiteiras – bind trees, roughly – is what we called them. Lest you get the idea I was born in a tropical resort, that area is subject to arctic fronts and has the charmingly drizzly, dismal weather England is famed for.)

But it was that still shot, before you click on play, that captured me. It felt as though I could somehow go into the frame, go around the right hand of the house, before it showed in the picture, enter the metal gates into the wash-tank area that was shared by my family’s household and the tenants, past the wooden gate my grandfather built, and around my grandfather’s workshop to the back door. In across the patio, and the kitchen door would be open – of course, it always was – and then I’d go into the kitchen, with its noisy clock on the wall, and call my grandmother – now gone nineteen years – and she’d come from somewhere within and bring out the good cookies (since now that I don’t live there, I’d qualify as company) and make tea.

The point is that this is the place I go when I dream. It’s the place my mind goes when I think of “home” – and it is always the place as it was when I was very young, with my grandmother and my grandfather still alive. (And my grandfather died when I was fourteen.) With the dogs and cats I knew when I was young too.

Was it such a special place, then? I don’t know. To me it was the whole world. At a very fundamental level, it still is.

First remove from your mind all ideas of the landscape as you would imagine it. There is a fundamental divide between Southern and Northern Europe, and the US gets its landscape traditions and imaginings from the North. At the most basic level, that means that what you think would be wooden fences are actually stone walls. Usually very tall – about eight feet tall – stone walls often topped by broken glass to discourage robbers. These were grey because the rock in the region is mostly granite. They were often covered in greyish green moss and in spring might grow with little scraggly flowers in every barely visible crack. After that, you have to give up the idea of open lawns, or open anything. Even in the village of my childhood, where you’d think there was plenty of room, (there was, but taken up with pastures, fields — some lying fallow a year or three — and woods) houses tended to be closer together and if they had a yard in front, it was like urban yards, in the US – handkerchief sized at best, the size you could mow with a weed whacker. Not that most people did have lawns. Usually they had a profusion of flowers.

But only the newest houses had these “gardens” up front, and shorter (about five feet) walls that allowed you to glimpse the gardens. The older houses, by and large, came right up to the street. The doors opened from the narrowest of sidewalks. Yards, as such, were in the back, and they were often mini farms.

My grandmother’s house was one of these, and it had two front doors, opening RIGHT into the main street of the village, at what I suppose was a prime location, across from the store which sold everything from tobacco to codfish to clogs to notebooks. I don’t know if it had two front doors all along, or if the second front door – with its different house number – was pierced through the wall when my parents got married and my grandmother converted what had been – from what I understand – some sort of storage rooms into a shotgun type apartment for them. This is the place I was born – it consisted of a long, narrow kitchen where my mother worked, most of the time, the kitchen table doubling as her work table, a hallway the same breadth as the kitchen, from which my parents’ bedroom had been carved out with interior walls. It didn’t have a door, just a yellow curtain with black checks. In the hallway, before the bedroom, was my brother’s bed – really just a cot, to which an improvised new end had been added as he grew taller than expected – and his bookcase. Mostly he did his homework in the kitchen, or the living room if he needed privacy. Then at the front was a living room where my mother saw clients. We had the dining room furniture crammed there, most of my conscious memories. My mind also wants to add a sofa bed to it, but I honestly can’t remember if that’s true or my memory just thinks there ought to be one there. Note that natural light came in at two ends of the “home” only, through the almost always open back door (unless it was very cold) and through the glass insets at the front door. My grandmother’s house, next door, had windows.

Most of the time I slept at my grandmother’s or in my mother’s room – my dad worked out of town all week, which means I could sleep in their bed. And I always did if I was ill. I had asthma and bronchitis and –briefly, apparently – TB, so I guess my mom found it vital to monitor my breathing.

If you’re imagining a childhood of hard privation, well… sort of? I mean, my mother was very careful with expenses, and yeah, they had one more child – me – than fit into the house. On the other hand, this was largely self-inflicted. You see, my parents have a horror of debt and being in debt. So while they wanted to build their own house, they didn’t want to have a mortgage, so they were saving everything to build the house. This house was under construction for most of my early childhood (building in stone takes time) and we moved into it when I was six. I still returned to my grandmother’s house every day, usually to hang out and do homework. (It was just ten minutes walk up the main road.) So my grandmother’s house remained “home”. And it still is, even though it doesn’t exist in any real way anymore.

At some point – I suspect when my great grandmother was widowed early? Though my uncle seemed to imply at least once that this happened in his life time, i.e. when my grandparents inherited the house – rental houses were built next to the main house and attached to it. Well, one rental house, with each floor rented to a different family. It must have been at this time that their part of the yard – which comprised the water pump, as well as their two washing tanks and our large one (very large. Stone, and probably six by six and three feet deep) – were partitioned off. The tenants’ kids were supposed to stay in that area (it included a cement patio) unless specifically invited. But other than that, the area got used by us as well (we had one of the wheel water pumps. Great arm exercise for most of us, grandkids, as teens.)

It filled the “Water cistern” on the roof of the bathroom. And the tenants were allowed to hang their clothes in the depths of the backyard. And most people came in through those gates.

The backyard… in my mind it’s huge. Very deep. I’m not sure how much of this is true, and how much it’s a three-year old’s view. My play area started outside my grandmother’s (and ours) back doors. There was a broad flagstoned patio. From it, straight down, was a garden path right to the back. To the other side was a path around my grandfather’s workshop (he was a cabinet maker) into the little area from which the tenants area was subdivided. There was another path there, to the depth of the yard, and a path across. (Actually two.) You could circumnavigate the entire yard on those paths and I often did, either running or on my little red tricycle. I used to dream of doors opening in those areas that led to other worlds, which just tells you I was born to write spec fic.

The center of the yard had fruit trees and vegetables. The edges were ringed with grapevines, which in the manner of the region were trained up columns and across wires, so that they grew overhead, as a sort of roof. Under the grapevines (which were really only in full foliage summer and fall) we grew more vegetables, cabbage and I suspect potatoes. I don’t remember very clearly.

The back wall looked out onto what was to me then a complete wilderness. Fields belonging to the neighbors, and at the back of that a forest called Coriscos (lightning bolts) which I thought was untouched and virginal. Mostly pine trees, with some oaks, the occasional creek and small lake. The funny thing – my dad took me for walks in the forest most Saturdays, weather permitting, mostly to get me out from under mom’s feet, so she could clean house – is that though I remember clear as day us coming across toppled stones (some of them with inscriptions in Latin) and bits of wall (birds and lizards nested there) and even what was clearly bits of houses, until about a year ago I still thought of this as “the forest” and assumed it had never been anything but. This was dispelled last year by one of the earth view programs. From the air, you can see the entire area still covered in trees (about half what it was in my childhood. Perhaps less) is crisscrossed in the scars of vanished foundations and roads. Makes sense, of course, since the area was populated since before the Romans, so the idea that no one ever built there is a little nuts. But from the look of the ruins, from the foot print, I got the impression that the village extended there (or another village was there) more recently than the Romans, though not all that recently. Gut feeling I’d say that those areas were abandoned shortly after the Great Plague dramatically reduced the population of the area. I could be wrong, of course. It might have got burned and abandoned in the Napoleonic wars, which was not only time enough for the forest to grow over it, but time enough for enough people who didn’t remember it to immigrate to the area and for local memory of it to be forgotten.

To me, when you say “forest” that’s the area I think of – the dark green shadows, birdsong and running water. Curiously, in my mind, it’s always fall. The wild blackberry bushes that grow anywhere left untended in that area are always heavy with fruit (which, yes, we picked and ate, sometimes after rubbing it on our sleeve to…. I don’t know, add more germs? It seemed like a nod to appease the demons of dirt, though.)

It’s always fall in the house, too, and my grandmother is splitting wood to feed the Franklin stove, in her kitchen. There are cats around that stove, of course: Tareco (rags) patriarch of all he surveyed; Black, my first cat (yes, I was imaginative. Yes, he was black.); Vadia, (stray) the mother of the large and incestuous cat tribe; Moshe Dayan, the grey tabby who had lost an eye as a kitten and who, for reasons known only to my mom was her favorite. I’m told before these there was Matateu, the tom (I don’t remember him, though I’m told I lamented him for days) and Vadia the dog (I also don’t remember her.) I do remember Lord, the dog, who looked like an oversized cocker spaniel, mostly white with brown spots. He was my dad’s dog when he was single, and he’s what’s in my mind when you say “dog”. I remember sharing my bread with him – he licked off the butter, and I ate the bread. Until my mom caught us, that is.

Up till we moved away, the youngest and often solitary child (my brother is almost ten years older and my cousin, who was raised by my grandparents is fourteen years older than I) I played mostly with the cats (I must have tried their patience horribly) and though I was a cat, or perhaps that they were my siblings and would grow up to be children.

I spent most of my day reading comics (first by looking at the pictures, and remembering what people had read to me) or building cities out of several large boxes of inherited legos. If bored, I attached myself to my grandmother, who was always doing something interesting. I remember going with her to one of the nearby fields that led to the woods (my dad and I jumped the back wall, but grandma insisted on going in the land route. I vaguely remember the neighbors hated us jumping the back wall onto their cabbage patch, en route to the woods.) to “gather grass for the rabbits.” I had my own little apron and scythe.

Actually if there’s one thing in which these reminiscences are in any way relevant, those few of you still awake, might note two things. The first is that I was left largely to my own devices, unless I attached myself to an adult. There were no play dates and no one really put themselves out for my entertainment. The adults were mostly around (except my dad who worked outside the village) but they had their own work, and their own business. I was presumed, being a kid, to know my own business which was playing and learning. If I attached myself to an adult too long or too intrusively, the adult felt perfectly free to tell me to find something else to do. (When this failed, if it was warm, they filled the old hip bath, threw a pair of my brother’s old bathing trunks on me, and flung me into it with all my toys. This was guaranteed to keep me quiet for several hours.) There were no play dates, no extra lessons, no feeling that life was rushed or scheduled. Once I was up and had been fed breakfast, it was presumed I could amuse myself. By and large I did, though it sometimes involved annoying the living daylights out of my brother and (female) cousin. Not that this was difficult, since they were teens. We had no TV and though I sometimes listened to radio programs (mom favored shows on mythology or history) it was usually while doing other things. I’m not saying the adult graced with my presence (snort) didn’t often try to include me in whatever he or she was doing to an extent – I had the apron and scythe when I went out with grandma. My grandfather gave me a small hammer, brads and scraps of wood and would, if he had time, provide instruction on building doll furniture. My mom tried – with varying degrees of lack of success – to teach me to sew. I remember an ill-fated attempt at painting the hen house, though it’s QUITE likely I came up with that on my very own, with no adult encouragement. I remember it ended badly.

I believe this is now called “quantity time” as opposed to quality time. It’s also known as benign neglect and people with phd after their names say it’s the best way to raise a child. I don’t know. I have some pretty wonderful childhood memories. It taught me to amuse myself and develop my imagination. And I have, of necessity, brought up my kids in a similar manner.

The other thing you might note is that provided I wasn’t destroying something or running around the street (this was more a class thing than anything else. The street was not that busy. My mom was of course afraid I’d get run over – lack of clue about reality and luck being what they are, I might have been – but mostly they didn’t want me associating with the children of the very poor, who roamed the street in a large band. There were reasons for this other than snobbery. The first time I was brought in contact with them, in school, I caught lice, which had to be gotten rid of without ruining my hip-length hair. Not an easy feat) I wasn’t watched over that closely. I remember as young as four and five spending entire days playing at my friends’ houses or their coming over to play. And I was allowed to have implements no one NOW would give their three year old: scythes, knives, chisels, hammers. Note that other than the incident with my brother’s transistor radio and the mallet (I’m sorry. OTOH he HAD painted fangs on my favorite pull toy — a smiling sheep) I never broke anything nor stabbed anyone.

Anyway, I suspect most of these reminiscences aren’t interesting to anyone but me. I will (hey, saving it for Halloween) speak later of more specific cultural things, many of them (as such things are) surrounding death and dying (all primeval stories are ultimately about either sex or death.)

You see what I mean about what I remember of Portugal and what I really love back there being so intensely personal as to be almost universal? There is a house back there in time that will always be home. And if there really is anything after death, and if there’s fairness in the universe, outside the minds of those who dreamed up the concept, I’ll eventually find my way back to that primeval garden filled with cats and dogs, with a conveniently circular path that a small kid can traverse on her tricycle, but with neither apple nor serpent. And this time, growing up will not expel me.

131 responses to “A sackful of disjointed recollection – a blast from the past from october 2011

  1. Thank you for the trip through your memories.

    In my mind I still see the house I grew up in – two bedroom ranch with a crawlspace, on 2 acres of land. (We lived at the edge of town, and didn’t have a farm like all my cousins). I can still smell the clay mixed with fuel oil of the crawlspace, where I (being small) had to move around the boxes of Mason jars that were our food stores from the gardens. The upper garden grew green beans, tomatoes, and onions. The lower garden, down the hill on the other side of the woods, grew pumpkins, squash, and watermelons. We tried corn one year, but all that did was feed the dear.

    I can still see the spring floods that filled the little valley between the houses on our road, and the properties behind us. The crick was normally a few inches deep and a couple of feet across, but every Spring it filled the whole valley to a depth of several feet. (Idiot developers who bought the whole area just built a business park down there, without checking the history of the place.)

    I can see all the little paths I had made among the bushes of the woods around the crick, and the tiny waterfall over the root that was my bridge across it. I remember the sound of the frogs in summer being so loud it kept me awake, through the windows that stayed open unless it was raining. I remember trying to fish in the little pond that was only about 10 feet across and a couple of feet deep, and swinging on the giant grape vines that hung between the ancient trees, and eating the blackberries off the bushes when I was supposed to be collecting them for the jam pots, and laughing at the birds falling off the trees, drunk on the fermented berries that we missed.

  2. There were various places I lived while growing up. What I find striking is that on those times I can recall a dream and it involves my past, often the house in the dream is not any of the places I’ve lived, but a strange melding of my grandparent’s houses.

    And I do recall one place where there were raspberry bushes. And anyone who had actually picked them knows full well that the proper spelling of the name of them is indeed correct.

  3. Have you looked up the area on Google Street View, or do you already know from visits how much has changed?

    • I know from visits how much it has changed. In fact, there’s only one direction I can look, from the terrace where I used to sit and read that is not filled with (rather ugly and utilitarian — hence stack a prol) apartment buildings.
      Interestingly the last time we went there, we got up early (as in before kids’ school starts) to drive to a castle, and found that some people who own no cars use garage space as goat pens IN THE SKYSCRAPERS. Early morning these rather modern and arid landscapes were full of goatherding boys taking the goats to pasture in medians and parks before going to school.
      An example of adapting borrowed (from perceived more-advanced countries) landscape to the original culture that just about astounded my husband and kids.l

  4. I read stuff like this and it is strange to me… my Dad was in the military and we moved every two to four years, so there’s no particular place I think of as “home” in my childhood. I mostly think of that part of my life in terms of events and not places.

    As to video…

    My brother enlisted in the USAF right out of high school in 1983 or so. His first station was Clark AFB in the Philippines. He lived off-base with the locals and did some touring of the country, which he was quite fond of.

    So, a quarter of a century later he’s looking at some videos of the Philippines on YouTube. One is a street scene of Manila in the 1980s. 16mm color film transcribed to video, no sound. There’s a sidewalk, people walking by, and a blond giant picking a path through.

    His wife says, “Hey, that’s you!”

    My brother is 6’3, blond, and looks like an Aryan recruiting poster. And it was indeed him, a few seconds clipped out of his past while someone was making a home movie halfway around the world.

    In these ways of Street View and ubiquitous surveillance and make-a-video-with-your-phone, it’s almost a “so what?” thing. But it seemed a lot different on flickery old film…

    • My father’s picture is in a history book. He was stationed in Alaska at the time, and his duties took him to Anchorage and other locations. My mother was teaching her class, and found it in their textbook. There, in a photograph of Anchorage, was my father, in his dress uniform, walking up the street.

      • These are great. Reminds me of one that made the media rounds a few years ago, of a married couple comparing family photos of their childhoods. It turns out that both of their families had taken them to Disneyworld as kids, and one was in the background of another’s snapshot.

    • I read stuff like this and it is strange to me… my Dad was in the military and we moved every two to four years, so there’s no particular place I think of as “home” in my childhood.

      While it was mostly oil and not military (I was not quite three when my Dad got out) I get this.

      It is also why I have few life-long friends and I suspect is part of why I don’t attach very well to people. When you know in 2-3 years you’re doing it all again why bother. People never stay.

  5. I dreamed of that garden, but never saw it in real life.

  6. Beautiful reminiscence. I have similar memories of my old home in New Orleans, and could probably describe the whole block down to the individual bricks.

    But time keeps passing. Other people live there now. The house has been remodeled, the neighborhood has changed dramatically (for the better, in most respects). I doubt anybody I knew from those days still lives there.

    That’s the bittersweet part. The places we love now live only in memory.

    • For a writer, this means I can reshape, redraw them, and recreate them at will.

    • A friend of mine was from New York. He’d been here for forty years, but decided he wanted to go back and see where he’d grown up.

      He came back shell-shocked. The part of Queens he’d grown up in was… gone. As in “knocked down all the houses, dug up the streets, and called in the graders” gone. A whole new road grid, a new subdivision with new streets running in different directions. Since the urban renewal had also affected adjacent areas, he couldn’t even locate where his boyhood home had been closer than a half mile. Which is a pretty big area in urban terms.

      Some of Andre Norton’s books referenced “the Dipple”, basically a refugee camp. It took a very long time before I encountered the term “D.P.” in a history book, and even longer before I connected it to “Dipple.” Displaced Persons were common enough when Norton started writing; people who not only lost their neighborhood or city, but whose entire country had vanished when the maps were redrawn at Potsdam.

      • Even when there’s no war involved, Andre Norton was always writing about displaced persons.

        • The very first book I ever read was Norton’s “Galactic Derelict.” I loved her SF. She moved more off to fantasy, and I never could find any love for those.

          You’re right, though. Most of her protagonists were ill-fit into the societies they were born or dropped into.

          • It is an easy way to get conflict without using the other easy way, violence.

            I’m not saying this to diminish Norton, who I love in both houses, just to note an outsider/cast comes with built in reasons to act.

            • Respect cliches. Cliches are old and wise and powerful.

              Nothing gets used enough to qualify as a cliche without a lot going for it.

  7. I’m curious about something. Since i believe this post will inspire a walk down memory lane from more than one person i was wondering does anyone else have a childhood that involved moving every few years?

    My parents were both air force so the longest i ever lived in a single house before moving out on my own was 3 years.

    And while i can appreciate Mrs Hoyt’s(sorry, sarah seems so terrible informal for a person i have yet to meet in real life) Vision of home I find it a slightly alien concept myself.

    I have a definition of home, but it is not a place. It’s were i live at the time, but it’s more than that. It also is the people who are involved in my life at this moment. My friends i see, my family i don’t (all my family is out of state. and we have no one state we are concentrated in either) and the few poor souls that i have made permanent additions to my life (my brothers in all but genetics).

    To me “who” is far more important for the word home, then “where”.

    I am curious if this view on “home” is unique to me, or if others who move frequently share this framework.

    And advanced apologies if i have unintentionally hijacked the thread. My intention is curiosity, not piracy 🙂

    • “Let man’s tiny nations tear the world apart!
      My land’s only borders are around my heart!” — “Chess”

    • Interesting question. 🙂 My dad was either in college or in the Air Force until I was nine, and we spent the first 11 years of my life moving constantly. I’ve spent most of my 30s moving a lot as well. “Home” has a couple of definitions for me as a result. The part of Virginia we finally landed is home in the physical sense, even though I haven’t lived there for several years (and frankly, it has changed so much that what I think of as home barely exists anymore).

      “Home” in an emotional sense is a little harder for me. I move around, but haven’t found anyplace that *feels* like home – someplace that grabs my heart and makes me want to put down roots – since leaving Virginia. I’m sure I will someday, but for now the place I live is just the place I live.

    • There are three places that might be home for me: My Grandparent’s house in Weyauwega, WI, which is where I spent at least part of each year until I was nine; My adoptive parent’s house in Oshkosh, WI, where I lived from nine until 18; and my current house in Denver, CO, where I have lived longer than anywhere else (15 years, this summer).

      If I “go home”, it’s to Oshkosh. If I’m asked where my home is, my answer is Denver. I’m not sure if the grandparent’s home is even still there. I have many fond memories but it’s been too long and was too fragmented to be “home”.

      I think moving around does do something to children. I’m not sure it’s “bad”, but it does effect relationships and how one interacts with strangers in a strange environment.

    • It’s hard to explain. My family lived in five different cities before I was grown. My maternal grandparents lived on a farm and that farm was home to me. We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas there, and the kids would spend a few summer weeks, and then other holidays as we could.

      Yes, people make the home, but d-mn it, there is something about someone’s home that is utterly them, an extension of them, and that farmhouse was it.

  8. The thing that haunts me most when traveling through regions of my childhood is the felling of trees. You don’t really notice that towering oak, you don’t really notice its having been chopped down, but the vacuity in the landscape is enormous.

    • The opposite also exists. The trees I once looked over without much difficulty are now far too tall for that. And the house my maternal grandparents lived in is now utterly hidden by trees that once were readily looked through.

      • We’ve had both. Pines set out, cut, set out once more and tall again. Fields abandoned to the woods, and woods returned to fields. It’s a long cycle, so long a human life only sees part of it.

        • And then there is the D’oh! stuff. A tree my grandfather planted was cut down as dead by new landowners who did not know that while a tamarack is a needle tree, it is not an evergreen.

          • Well, that’s a new one on me too; I’ve heard of larches, but never of a tamarack, not even in crossword puzzles (unless I missed it).


            • Tamarack is a delightful break for a North-South (or verse-vica) trip through West Virginia. The arts & crafts center offers a fine selection of works by West Virginia craftsmen and women as well as very pleasant facilities and superb dining, catered by the Greenbriar Resort.

              Enticing gardens and scenic vistas offer a welcome opportunity to stretch one’s legs while recuperating from a long drive. Inside the center one has the opportunity to meet and chat with artisans, view the works on display and buy T-shirts. The theatre offers not only documentary films on the history and present of the state but on many days proffers free plays, dance performances, seminars, guest speakers, theater camp, movies, music, competitions and more.

              Tamarack’s striking, peaked red roof and attractively landscaped grounds draw half a million visitors annually into a welcome respite of visual beauty, Appalachian sounds, and distinctive aromas.

              Tamarack with its unique retail artisan products and extraordinary food fare started out as a simple vision to promote the Mountain State’s wonderful image. Wildly popular after nearly 20 years, Tamarack greets hundreds of thousands of guests annually with a memorable experience.

              http://www.tamarackwv.com/

          • This story helped clear up a little mystery that has bothered me for some time. At the end of the street where I grew up, there was (and as far as I know, still is) a tree that looked vaguely sprucey, but every autumn it dropped all its needles. I had not been able to work out what sort of tree it was, so it has been in the back of my mind as “that strange tree that sheds all its needles every year”.

            Looking at the Wikipedia entry for tamarack showed me that my mystery tree most likely is one. Or, if not precisely a tamarack, at least some variety of larch.

          • And I’m wondering what that tree on my piedmont college campus was that my equally from the flatlands classmate wondered if it was a cypress–I recall it was a needle tree and turned brown. It wasn’t too far from where I stole a rose for a girlfriend. (Well, it was just growing on a fence; maybe no one missed it).

  9. I am a military brat and we moved fairly often. So I envy your memories. We did stay 6 years at an assignment but I believe we left there at my age of 5 or so my memories of there are limited. It was base housing. Plus we never lived with close to any family so that also I missed out on.

  10. Our October book is Into the Looking Glass.

  11. Hey, right now when I’m trying to check an answer to one of my yesterday’s comments by clicking on the WP notifications I end up with the “untrusted connection” warning, then if I go further the claim that it seems like some other site pretending to be accordingtohoyt.

    • The bookmark works without problems.

    • Sigh. I don’t even know.

    • Reality Observer

      Urp. Amazon had cloud problems last Sunday – wonder if this is related? (Far too many providers have dependencies on Amazon Cloud these days for their data storage.)

      • Reminders how fragile the whole system is after all. Scary. I have to admit I have become quite dependent on internet during the last decade.

        • It is easy to take this all for granted, isn’t it? Especially when in reality the power grids and interconnected systems are just one long chain of dominoes waiting for a careless child to tromp through.

          What seem stout walls are little more than tissue-paper thin, waiting to give way should you make the mistake of leaning on their surface to heavily.

          (And now I’ve an image of a person doing just so, falling through the Reality Stage Set and into the backstage area behind the scenery. I suspect I have found the inspiration for Sturgeon’s Yesterday was Monday!)

          • Yahoo mail wasn’t working for me this morning, to add to the lists of rainclouds.

          • Thanks for that depressing thought RES! Thanks for reminding me how easily my life can go to hell! Thanks ever so much!

            • At the prestigious prep school I attended for two years there was a large lake separating the boy’s and the girl’s campuses (campii?); classes were held at each venue but dormitories were distinct. In winter, as is common in Michigan, that lake was wont to freeze over, offering a significantly shorter route between campuses.

              The question every winter was who would be among the first to attempt that crossing, testing whether the ice was thick enough to bear a load, and who, come Spring, would be the last daring it.

              It strikes me as implicit in the Conservative view that we believe Civilization to be comprised of similarly unknown thickness. At times, when the culture is strong, we can stride, run, even jump upon that surface with confidence there is little risk of falling through into the underlying abyss. Other times (such as now) that surface can seem remarkably fragile, encouraging prudent men and women to tread lightly and pause at every step, examining each puddle to determine whether it is mere surface melt or indication of less secure area.

              Liberals, OTOH, seem to imagine the ice is solid and that it can be danced upon with abandon; that even if one breaks the surface there are no particular depths beneath, no hidden raging currents eager to sweep you away.

              [Profound and insightful conclusion tying the metaphor neatly in a bow to be inserted at later date or by other commentors. Whatever.]

              • Would it be fair to say that both optimists and pessimists come in Liberal amd Conservative flavors?

                A Liberal Optimist says “Things could be so much better if we change”

                A Conservative Optimist says “Things are so much better than they were before.”

                A Liberal Pessimist says “Things will be so much worse unless we change.”

                A Conservative Pessimist says “Things will get so much worse if we change.”

      • Reality Observer

        And… appears to be so. I know that my provider (Cox) uses Amazon cloud – and it’s acting up too. (Just clicked on an email to read it, and got kicked back to the login.)

        Sigh. I think my old company might be one of the few that didn’t go into the cloud – if they still remember my rather loud rant the one time it was proposed.

        Yep, looks like they’re chugging right along…

      • I suspect it may be – a LOT of cloud-based junk, er, applications and media have been wonky this week. WordPress was balking yesterday (Wed) because my IP was glitching (Not Comcast, oddly enough).

  12. “Home” is part place, and part time – and the things of that time. I recall wanting better sound than scratch-prone records and faster access than waiting for tubes (valves) to warm up. And now I have such, but find myself oddly missing ‘surface noise’ and the peculiar aroma of dust baking on the hot glass tube envelopes. And when I mentally picture levels jumping, I ‘see’ analog meters. No, I do NOT want to go back and live then – but there are times I think a short visit might be nice… and probably convince me not to do that again. Set the WABAC for….

    • At one time, while visiting in Portugal, we ended up in the mountains, in a village that still looked much like the village I grew up in. From the deep woods came the sound of a radio, just like my brother used to take with him to the woods, to study. The fact he had a transistor radio at the time — brought from relatives from Rhodesia, I think — made him the envy of everyone. Everyone else had tube radios. Anyway, the deep silence made the tinny, distant music more audible, and seemed to deepen the silence and the loneliness. And I found myself almost unbearably homesick.
      Wanting to go back? No. I’ve since found I’m allergic to both feathers and wool, the combination of which probably explains my extremely sickly childhood, but… but… To visit grandma, just one more time, to sit down with her to tea, and tell her about her great grandsons, the older of which is so much like her he could be her come again, in male form; and the younger of which LOOKS like her… That fills me both with longing and dread, like even though I could do it, it would be a violation of something sacred, and at the same time it is what I want the most.
      Add in that grandmother was the one who told me stories, the source of the mytholization (totally a word) of my inner thoughts, and you might be close to the center of what makes me me, the sacred well from which creativity flows. (It has a hand cranked, circular pump.)

      • To visit grandma, just one more time, to sit down with her to tea, and tell her about her great grandsons …

        My mother has Alzheimer’s’, well advanced and will probably not live much longer. This has been long in the process and I am resigned to it, but …

        When I visit it is as visiting the grave. I tend the flowers, I trim the grass, handle such chores as I can (paying bills, dealing out her prescriptions for the coming week.) She is no longer there and I regret I can no longer remember she who was my mother. The person who is there smiles at me and remembers I am somebody familiar. Beloved Spouse sits and keeps company while I attend to duties, and makes remarks to the mother-in-law and tries to guess the meaning of such responses as she gets.

        There is a health care aide who tends mother’s needs and we chat with her, but … I feel the expense justified for sparing my mother the indignity (not that she’d perceive it) of her child wiping her bottom as once she wiped those of me and my three siblings (each of whom life has taken far enough away that their ability to share such tasks does not exist.)

        The only satisfaction available is that of the obedient child, doing one’s duty repaying the unpayable debt of not strangling me in the crib. It probably won’t be much longer — it has already lasted far longer than I anticipated possible — and soon this shell will be able to rejoin my mother’s soul. I am resigned, and hope that in time I will be able to grieve and to remember my mother who was when I was young.

        • My aunt stopped visiting my great-aunt because she would remember she ought to know who my aunt is without actually remembering.

          • When I was quite young I read a story called “Charly”. There was a short story and a novel; I don’t remember which one I read now. And there was a movie.

            Basically, a research project found a cognition enhancer, and tried it out on a convenient retard who was working there as a janitor. The retard moved up to “normal” and “genius” and then… a slow and irreversible decline to what had had been before.

            I’ve seen reviews of the story, tossing around words like “charming” and “heartwarming”, and… that’s easily the most horrifying story I’ve ever read in my life. This poor bastard’s brain is rotting inside his head, and he *knows* it. And the Pod People are nodding at each other babbling about how wonderful it is. Just, WTF?

            Roddy Piper had to use magic sunglasses to identify the lizard people in “They Live!”. But sometimes they just come right out and tell us that they’re lizard people, and nobody listens to them…

            • Short story was “Flowers For Algernon.”

              Interestingly, the star of Charly, Cliff Robertson (who won an Oscar for his performance) was guaranteed a share of the profits on that film, in pursuit of which he eventually brought a suit which exposed Hollywood’s corrupt accounting protocols to the light of day and incidentally effectively black-listed him for years afterward.

              Oddly, when Liberals denounce Hollywood Black Listing they rarely notice that one.

              • Well of course not. He was blacklisted for engaging in capitalism which is a real crime which offends their feelings unlike communism which just slaughters lesser people.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              Folks might know exactly why I am so strange on some issues if I explained exactly such horror resonates with me.

        • You may be surprised at what you remember, someday.

          My grandfather spent seven long years defying the odds. On medication that made him hallucinate, altered his mood, and of a disease that finally dissolved his memory. I sat with him, told him stories the way he used to tell them to me, fed him, kept his house in order, what all a good grandchild does, too.

          It’s hard to see someone you love there, but not there anymore. It’s not something you can explain in words that make sense to the outside world. But, in time, you get memories back.

          I can now remember learning how to use a handsaw for the first time in granddad’s basement, building a birdhouse for my grandmother. I can remember those steely grey eyes before they became clouded and wandering. I can remember learning a firm handshake, and what it meant. I remember learning responsibility, to keep my word, and to finish what I started (a garden, at the time). I remember picking up bits of paper from the carpet, because granddad was very neat and would not abide a mess.

          To this day the smell of gun oil and sawdust brings all that back. But eighteen years ago, I couldn’t remember any of that. Couldn’t let myself, I guess. Sometimes you have to do the job that’s in front of you, and let the future take care of itself. That hope is something to hold to, but it can indeed come true.

          • My Dad had some health issues; he figured a long decline, probably in a nursing home. Instead, he had a massive stroke at 83. His last words before he went completely nonresponsive were that he wanted “the tubes out” and he wanted to go home.

            The next day I had a a hospital bed set up in front of the big TV where his recliner had been. I turned that awful “Lifetime” channel he liked on, then sat with him for the day and a half it took for the end.

            It was bad enough having to put down family dogs. I never thought I’d have to do it for my Dad.

        • My condolences on your loss. I apologize for yelling at one of your comments.

          • Thanks – I acknowledge being in maudlin and morose mood today, which began with accompanying Beloved Spouse to oncologist appointment to be reassured there is N.E.D. on this, B.S.’s second birthday since diagnosis predicted no more birthdays.

            Afterward we had a lovely brunch at a superb local restaurant.

            As second of four kids I don’t feel a day compleat without being yelled at, so you’ve no cause for apology.

        • William Underhill, Barbarian 1st Class

          Dammit, you got something in my eye…

  13. Just listened to George Burns singing “I Wish I Was 18 again” – and then read this. Oh yes I do, I do. ALL the houses I lived in until I married have been torn down. Years after my grandmother died, her house was torn down. It was like losing her all over again… My physical past is now nothing but a memory.

  14. I remember my old bedroom best, not so much the rest of the house or the garden, but I also remember the small patches of forest to two sides of it, I did spend a lot of time in them. And my uncle’s farm. For some reason most of my memories of my home include late summer and fall. With uncle’s farm that is of course, I mostly spend time there in summer, usually all of July, but I know I spend quite a lot of time playing in the snow and later skiing in my home, but I don’t remember that much, just the summers, and of the summers the nice days. One memory of Christmas, when there was no snow and it rained the whole time (probably when I was quite young, and may be because I was young enough to believe in Santa Claus and so worried he might not be able to come because there was no snow. Finnish kids don’t, or at least didn’t think that he has flying reindeer and flying sleigh, but that he uses ground transport, so of course then no snow could be a problem. Hey, they did and still show these pictures in the news here: http://yle.fi/uutiset/joulupukki_lahti_korvatunturilta/6050844 🙂 ).

    • One of my earliest dateable memories are of a couple of bushes known as Spanish Bayonets, which were as nasty as the name implies. So nasty that my father finally pulled them up with the tractor.

  15. I remember visiting my parents not long after I was on my own, and going with my father to see what little remained of the old commissary, dismantled for the lumber. It had been a combination depot, offices, and company commissary, beside railroad tracks that were gone long before I was born. So was the town, dense pine woods where once stood several hundred homes. I looked at the few brick pillars that remained, and next to it a field we once plowed but now claimed by the pines. And I said to him that I was homesick not for a place but a time, and it had passed away long before the commissary.

    He only nodded. He knew exactly what I was talking about.

  16. Yards, as such, were in the back, and they were often mini farms.

    For some reason what that calls to mind is: Self-sufficiency in Surbiton.

    • Most people lived from their yards. They were most efficiently arranged to provide enough food and for canning, though objectively most were the size of suburban plots in the US. There were often chickens and rabbits and guinea pigs (food animals) and sometimes goats and pigs in the larger plots. We kept only chickens and rabbits. Food for them was gathered or they were pastured elsewhere. One of my initial culture shocks and a realization of how rich the US is, is that most suburban plots have nothing of food, not even fruit trees.

      • My great-grandparents made it a point of planting a garden for themselves when they moved into their patch of the American Dream. Some of my earliest memories are of spending time with Great Grandpa as he tended the trees and the vegetables, then bringing them in for Great-Grandma to deal with in the kitchen. Lots of white tile, hand-appliances, a gas stove and oven from at least the 1950’s. Sometimes they’d play card games that were incomprehensible to me. I also don’t recall them speaking more than a few words of English, and I’ve often wondered if they lamented that I wasn’t learning any Italian back home.

        Since we didn’t get our own place until I was nearly nine, my earliest memories are also of Grandma’s house, where we lived until then. We were right across from the bay, on a quiet street that was mostly summer bungalows, with the more permanent part of the neighborhood around the corner and up the road. I was also left largely to my own devices when I wasn’t in school, primarily because my parents both worked and Grandma couldn’t be expected to chase me down all by herself. Lots of reading, lots of daydreaming, scratchy reruns of Hanna-Barbera cartoons on UHF before Ben Casey, MD came on. (“Man. Woman. Birth. Death. Infinity.” I’ll remember that when I can’t remember my own name.)

        I can see the console stereo that doubled as a credenza; the maize-colored shag carpet; the bookshelf console whose closed cupboards below doubled as the liquor cabinet, filled with stuff nobody ever drank; the basement that had been my grandfather’s retreat, still filled with his old pipes and his drafting table and mementos of his hobbies; my father used the space after as a place to build models and draw. I can see variations of that house in my dreams to this day, madcap grown and labyrinthian like a funhouse TARDIS, to explore the way I did as a small boy.

        Kudos to Kevin, above, when he wrote that we are remembering times as much as places. I see the surroundings, but without the times surrounding them, they wouldn’t mean the same.

    • richardmcenroe

      Good gardens make good neighbors, right, Fatima?

  17. Having on one occasion revisited the house in which I spent the most memorable portion of my childhood (ages 6 – 12) I was struck by how much smaller it was than in memory. The giant front yard, while not a postage stamp, was scarcely long enough to believe a sled worth riding down it — although I know my sibs & I did, many times. The creek-bed in the “park” across the street, which had been tremendously deep … not so much.

    I, too, spent much of my childhood in unsupervised play, whether in long hikes or astride my bicycle, simply going out and about for no particular purpose other than to be out. Reading … well, there was that aplenty. Bus fare to the library was trivial and once I could bike such distances even less of an issue, and a good relationship with the librarian gave access to all I could read, which was quite a bit. Oddly, one favorite author of my teen years I have completely forgotten the name of; I can remember scenes from those books and the usual formula of the novels, but not the author’s name.

    • We had a huge front yard. The reason might have been a church once sat there, and when my father built his house, he didn’t want to deal with the remains of the foundation.

    • When I took The Spouse to see the house where I lived a large part of my childhood the front yard did seem smaller, but the magnificent old oak in the front was remained monumental.

      • There’s a cliff-face we clambered all over when we were children in my parents’ neighborhood.

        It shrunk.

        • I guess what they say is true: the world does get smaller (and more mundane) as you grow up.

          Might be why so many of us love SF and Science (especially the quantum-physicky sort) — it protects some of the magic of reality.

    • I have one lost book, that I’d like to revisit, except I remember neither the title (which at any rate was translated to Portuguese) nor the name of the author. It was about a band of children spending time at a family manor in England (can’t remember if grandparents or an aunt lived there) and looking for a will. I remember enjoying it immensely and that one of the characters was named Deborah, the first time I found the name used anywhere outside the Bible. For the longest time I wanted to name a child Deborah. (Curiously it would have been husband’s name, had he been born female.) At the time the book impressed me as a more realistic version of Enid Blyton’s child-adventures. But I can’t recall either name of author or story.

    • If you tell a librarian what you do remember, she can sometimes track it down for you.

  18. Besides the memory aspect, it’s interesting how custom is shaped by economics, geography, climate, and flora and fauna. The rural US didn’t have houses as close together as in Europe, but for us “garden” meant where you grew vegetables. That was behind the house, near where you kept the chickens.

    Lawns came during my grandparent’s era. Before that were swept yards, which are exactly what they sound like. The first house I remember my grandparents living in had a lawn and a boxwood hedge in the front, but a dirt yard with chicken coop and smokehouse in the back. Their garden was beside their house.

    The dirt yard and lawn helped prevent damage from fire, and made it easy to see snakes. Plenty of rattlesnakes and copperheads around. Still are. Every now and then you can get a whiff of a rattlesnake – yes, you can smell them.

  19. Childhood memories are special. The “little woods” where I played and climbed trees is now the parking lot of a furniture store. As I grew older I could go to the bigger woods on the limestone bluffs on one side of town, or the Mississippi river bottoms on the other side of town. Mark Twain even gave the place a one sentence mention in his Life On The Mississippi.

  20. William Underhill, Barbarian 1st Class

    It seems I’m not the only military brat posting here today.

    My father was RCAF (before Canada’s experiment with unification of the military, about which I will remain silent because reasons), and as with others, we picked up and moved, like clockwork, about every two or three years. As a result, ‘home’ to me is a mash-up of several physical places, though one location predominates.

    The main thing is that as a child, ‘home’ was where Mum, and to a lesser extent, Dad (sorry, Dad). I think I’m fortunate in that Mum & Dad were able to follow the much-decried-these-days model of “father works, Mum keeps house”. It meant that as a child, my brother and sister and I always had that security of knowing Mum was there when we needed an adult – to resolve sibling differences, to put a Band-aid on a scrape and kiss it to make it better, to remind us to do our household chores. Yes, I hated them at the time, but there was also a curious comfort in knowing the expectation.

    Home is made up of memories. One such memory, that I consider ‘home’, is a fragment – I’m sitting on my trike in the entrance to a building parking lot, and a couple of adults on a motorcycle go past me, turning in to the parking lot. That’s all I personally remember. It turns out this was when I was three. Expo ’67 was on, in Montreal, and I gather I had decided I was going, though I have no memory of forming that decision. Apparently I’d gotten about a mile from home and was heading in the right direction, too – straight for the 417. 🙂

    Home is Dad and my brother and I building a tree fort in the back yard (in other words, Dad doing 90% of the work but making us feel included in the work). Home is also us three kids, in an Ottawa winter, jumping out of that tree fort into the snow-filled above-ground pool, and (though we didn’t know it at the time) giving our Mum fits. Home is when Mum & Dad built an addition onto the house, over the garage, and the three of us kids “helping” (mostly by drawing streets and stuff on the subfloor after it was down), but also learning a lot of things – how to frame and raise a wall, how to pull wire for electrical boxes, how to grout tile in the bathroom, that kind of thing. Home is Mum teaching me to sew, by hand and using a sewing machine. Home is discovering the photos of Mum as a university student, when Dad was courting her – the one that sticks most in my mind is of her standing up in the back of a rowboat, with a rilfe to her shoulder, shooting at something. I asked Dad one time, and it turns out she was shooting at beer cans on the water. With his front-sight-only bolt-action .22. From over 200 yards. And sinking 11 out of 12 on the first shot.

    I could go on for quite some time, but as it’s your blog, not mine, I’ll refrain. I’m getting more and more tempted to set up a blog of my own, though.

    • I have a similar disjointed memory of the US Bicentennial parades in my hometown, which would have been a few months before I turned four.

    • Neither the Soviets nor the Maoists were able to accomplish that trick either, so the Canadians don’t have to feel too bad about it.

      • William Underhill, Barbarian 1st Class

        We *are* slowly getting out of it. The problem is that certain aspects of it made sense – for a military the size of Canada’s, there is little sense to be found in maintaining three separate logistics systems, three separate military health care systems, etc. etc. But slashing away the traditional uniforms, ranks and insignia, traditions, etc. was just ridiculous. While there are commonalities between soldiers, sailors and airmen – pride, esprit de corps, discipline, etc. – there are also differences. A sailor’s environment is very different from a soldier’s; they do different jobs, they go to war (or wherever else) in different ways. Stripping them of their identity as soliders, sailors or airmen was not a good idea.

        We are, in terms of service identity, in a better place than once we were, in my opinion. We have our distinct uniforms, our distinct ranks and insignia. The RCN resumed the use of the RN-style executive curl in 2010. A small thing, one might think, but it reconnects us with our heritage. Last year the Canadian Army resumed the use of the British-style ‘pips and crowns’; the RCAF went to silver-on-black rank insignia for officers, and silver insignia for enlisted – again, both changes bringing us closer to the traditions and customs that evolved to meet the needs of different services.

        I’ll leave it for now, as this is Mrs. Hoyt’s blog, not mine. I really do need to set up a blog of my own so I can pontificate without committing the sin of thread-jacking…

        • I’ve heard that the reason to keep ’em separate was that in case of mutiny, you could deploy one against the other.

  21. The Other Sean

    I was on a trip to Calgary to meet my boss, along with one of my Dutch colleagues. My boss and his wife had us both over for dinner one evening, and served cheese on a Delft-ware platter depicting a Dutch streetscape. As the cheese disappeared from the platter and its details became clearer, my Dutch colleague stared at it hard for a moment. The streetscape was from the street he’d lived on in college, with perspective from the basically right out is front door, looking up the street. Weird coincidence.

  22. We live in my childhood home. We did the many moves in the first twelve years of our marriage. In the end, it came very near to breaking us. So we ended up back here, where I had sworn I’d never live again. The memories are mixed.

    • The Other Sean

      I wouldn’t buy either my childhood home or the one I lived in as a child. Both still stand and are in good shape, but I wouldn’t want to move back to New Jersey now. Visit, meet family and friends, grab some of the food I miss, hit a few attractions, sure. But living there day in and day out, with high cost of living, high taxes, bad state finances, and no prospect of significant improvement to any of that, would not be my ideal.

      My fond childhood memories of those places are tied as much to the worry-free freedom of my youth, or to people who’ve since left, as much as they are to the homes and places themselves. Maybe if things weren’t in such bad shape I might consider moving back.

      Unfortunately, I do not anticipate that things will ever improve much in New Jersey, because even if its own natives see the light, New York sends a never-ending stream of refugees. Those folks, frustrated by the even higher cost of living of New York, flee to New Jersey – and then demand the same types of government spending that caused many of New York’s problems they fled from. This has been going on for the past 50 years, and nothing much seems to change in this regards. I take that back. In suburban developments, lot sizes increased, then shrunk, even as house sizes increased.

      All in all, I guess living in Ohio beats that. I do wish Ohio wasn’t so humid in summer, though. Maybe I should compromise and move to Pennsylvania.

      • If we’d bought it, it never would have happened. No, we’re standing in the gap between parents and nursing home or other catastrophe. Some chance of inheriting it, but the state probably will unless I somehow persuade them that estate planning is for all people without mortgages, not just ‘rich folks’.

        • If your parents do a gift or deed of gift or something of the house, before they die or go non compos mentis (which one hopes they won’t) , I think you just have to take over the property tax. Look up what rich people do to avoid death taxes.

  23. Y’all ain’t got no culture because no one has linked to “Will the Circle Be UnBroken:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLFbUbmH7To

  24. I have childhood memories of three places. Cleveland Hights, Ohio. Mishaum Point, South Dartmouth, Mass.. And Princeton, New Jersey. Cleveland was where I was born and lived most of my childhood. Mishaum Point was where my mother’s family had (still have) a summer house. Father took two seperate years’ sabbatical at the Institute For Advanced Study.

    I kniw a lot of the Cleveland I knew has gone. My favorite memories are of working downtown at a comic book store that has since vanished. My favorite bookstore went as early as the ’80’s. My folks retired to Princeton, and the town of my childhood is only superficially present. It went upscale and trendy; one cannot imagine anything like the A&S Coffee Shop, where I first encountered (and shoplifted) pornography stronger than Playboy.

    And I have had to give up on Mishaum. The place is falling apart (maybe it always was; kids don’t notice), my Cousins are mostly Liberal-Establishment Loathsome, and the area is suffering under the weight of several decades of the knd of economic depression it takes an entrenched Democrat Political Machine to maintain. Which is a pity, because the local poor brown folks are Cape Verdean amd the salt of the earth. They deserve so much better than the fallout of the Kennedy Worshiping idiots in the Peoples’ Republic of Boston.

  25. I don’t want to go back to the place where I grew up (ages 1.5 to 11) but the feeling. I want one more afternoon with the complete freedom to roam and imagine without any consequences besides skinned knees and cold fingers, to travel the gullies and stream-beds between the blocks and go several miles without ever seeing more than a glimpse of a swing set or rabbit hutch or the back of a house through trees and bushes. I want to slip through the hole in the fence, sled in tow, and sneak up to the hill that formed the tee box on the 14th hole and slide down Dead Man’s Hill, hoping for enough speed to get at least half-way up the little hill at the bottom but not enough to sail over the hummock and into the very cold creek. And have wild adventures in a snow-carved Millennium Falcon before going inside for hot chocolate and cinnamon-n-sugar bread.

    “The time has passed so quick;/ the years all run together now.
    Did I hold Juanita yesterday/ or was it fifty years ago?”
    Ian Tyson “Fifty Years Ago”

    • Reality Observer

      Amazing how we don’t appreciate that until we are older.

      I remember how eager I was to make all those decisions – small ones, like when and what dinner was. Then I grew up and got to make all of those decisions – there are all too many days that I’d go back in a heartbeat.

      (Part of it, of course, is that as a child you don’t realize how many decisions you have to make for even a simple thing like the dinner menu.)

  26. Don’t want to go into *too* much detail, but I feel the exact same way about a tiny, isolated town in rural Southern Utah.

    And I know exactly what you mean by benign neglect; once done with chores, my cousins and I went where we pleased and did what we pleased most of the time, with no direction or interference from adults (our parents knew we were still alive because we showed up for lunch and dinner). We played with hammers, axes, knives, rope, and even fire — and when we got closer to teen years, guns went out into the sagebrush with us too — and it was simultaneously the most normal and most awesome thing in the world.

    Last summer we found his older brother’s handmade ammunition box out in the sagebrush a few yards from my parents’ new house, which occupies part of what used to be my grandpa’s best alfalfa field. No ammo in it, unfortunately (I’d have loved to see what he was shooting back in the early ’50s), but we know whose it was and what it was for because he had carved his name and the word “ammo” in the lid.

    That little wooden box had to have been sitting there next to the old fence line for at least 30 years, probably more like 50. Sagebrush growing up around it, the barbed-wire fence rusting away, alfalfa being replaced by a horse pasture and a new house, a new road going in…the wood is deeply seamed and weathered gray, and the leather hinges are stiff, but the high desert climate preserved it quite well.

    Though some of the scenery and people have changed, in many ways that town isn’t much different now than it was back then. If I could find a decent job down there (there basically aren’t any, let alone decent ones; it’s either tourism or small-scale farming), I’d move back in a heartbeat. My dad grew up there and moved back when he retired a few years ago, so there’s a lot of family history in that place. That little piece of the rural American West is where my heart lives.

  27. When I was a kid, bombers flew over the house twice a day, like the world’s noisiest vacuum cleaners. I was so little that it did not occur to me that there was a schedule….

    There were fields on both sides of our dead end residential street, and a woods up at the end of the street. Now they are all developments and businesses.

    • The local B-52 base became an F-15 base a couple of decades ago; it’s too close to the ocean for cruise missiles from submarines to be detected in time. The home place isn’t under their flight path so I rarely seen them. I do remember seeing a big BUFF years ago seemingly just above the trees. Then again there’s the infamous lost A-bomb from fifty years ago; the Air Force could never find it so the people near where it was lost still get their water tested for radiation.

    • We lived under the arrival/departure corridor for Offutt AFB/ SAC Headquarters. The Looking Glass planes would lumber overhead, barely hanging in the sky. Mom was not sure that such big things really could fly.

  28. Pingback: A Blast of the Past #30: My First Renaissance season | Be Swift, Be Precise

  29. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Obama releases Gary Ridgway from Gitmo; Marie Harf unavailable for comment.

  30. Hey, Sarah, since Larry has all these conventions and signings coming up, does that mean you have more time for great suggestions on MHG? 😀

  31. BobtheRegisterredFool

    ‘nother silly thought:

    I think I’ve found an intersection between cozy/craft mystery and futuristic hard sci fi. Recently, I saw another post on automation/no jobs. Might be the sleep loss, but tonight I asked, ‘what have we done with being absurdly wealthy?’ Entertainment, for one, with ‘theme parks’ being a particularly interesting space.

    Imagine a city like the red handed stepchild of Disneyland and one of those Japanese media historical recreation districts. You travel to the suburbs, change into costume, and travel to the city proper by train or bus. You check into your hotel. You go to sleep. Out walking the next morning, you trip over a body, freshly murdered. It is a fake, but the actors and the other tourists pretend it isn’t, and you can take part in the drama of the mystery if you choose. If you don’t feel like it now, there will be plenty more before you are ready to leave.

    How is that a cozy? Well, faking the bodies would be a craft, as they are meant to pass inspection, and carry clues about the scenario. There’d be all sorts of activity that could conceal real murder, everyone would be talking about murder all the time, but no one would be expecting it.

    It’d take a lot more forensics and other research than I could afford to do now.

    Getting away from mystery, suppose a grim dark wealthy future where the countries have very small very elite militaries that do not fight often. Suppose that people are so wealthy that the hobbyists that today do things like SCA, reenactment, larping, and paintball can afford to field actual historic military units with complete tables of equipment. Suppose that these are competent enough by historical (current) standards while not being competitive with actual future military. I guess I’ve missed too much sleep, my apologies.

    • Going off your second scenario, suppose the reenactors have nanites able to heal all damage but programmed to hold the individual in a state of suspended animation consistent with their injuries (stunned, unconscious, daid), to be revived at the conclusion of the battle.

      “We’ll keep reenacting Pickett’s Charge until we win, dammit!”

      Then some hacker puts them all in zombie mode …

    • Maybe you’re sleep deprived; maybe you’re on to something. Seems like I’ve read that a few of the colonial militia (and perhaps some volunteer civil war outfits) were outfitted by a rich man in town (whichever town the company or battalion was from) or he had least provided a cannon or two. (According to that pawn shop show on TV (and as this picture illustrates: http://www.thedonovan.com/archives/2013/07/best_picture_ev.html) US citizens are allowed to own cannons if they were manufactured prior to a certain year in late 19th century (maybe when the 75mm breach loaders were invented, but that’s a guess). So it is conceivable for someone to be wealthy enough to equip, say, a hundred soldiers out of their own pocket.

    • That’s basically Walter Jon Williams’ “This Is Not A Game”, except the gamemasters ran the game in the real world.