Words for Journey, Words for Justice

Pat Hoffman Author, Chaplain, Presenter

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Visiting the Old Neighborhood

Posted on April 23, 2012 at 8:10 PM

The house looks plain and more exposed than when we lived there. Back then, there was a huge carob tree on the parkway. I practically lived in that tree; every branch was designated a room. I only allowed Dorothy, a quiet, younger girl from two houses down, to climb the tree with me. The tree has been gone quite a while, cut down by the city for interfering with something or other. The orangeberry pittsporum that was in front of my bedroom window is gone too.  But the house looks neat and well-cared for. Did the shutters used to be baby blue?

 

We have the car idling right in front of the house. I ask Cecil to back up. I want to see the driveway. Isn’t that kind of odd? It looks just the same as when we moved there in 1946. The cement driveway runs along the south side of the house with the six foot wooden gate half way back, not flush with the front of the house or the back of the house but halfway between. I never thought about it as a kid, but now I notice this placement. 

 

But here was the main thing about the driveway. It was down this driveway, from the garage at the back, I rode my bike. It was old and clunky, with balloon tires and a basket in front. I named it “The Blue Streak.” It and an even older boys bike were left in the garage when our family bought the house. Martha, my older sister, and I now had our first bikes. I rode around the neighborhood feeling like a Cadilac owner, empowered and free. I was happy to ride to Odie’s Market at the corner of Exposition and Sepulveda to pick up things for my mother.

 

I would ride my bike to the gas station on Pico and carefully adjust the air in my tires. At home, I would wash my bike and polish its fading blue frame. Looking back I can see this innocent little blond girl loving her bike and caring for it like Daddy cared for his car.

 

By now, I notice someone is in the house and has turned off a light, probably to be able to look at us looking at the house, so I ask Cecil to slowly drive on up my old block.  I moved from that house sixty years ago when I was about fifteen. The memories swell my heart like sun-warmed yeast in dough.

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