Stratigraphy of our Treasured Places

Just a few hours ago, a friend of mine posted about her kids playing on her childhood playground. It resonated with a concept that has been brewing over the last few days of this visit to my childhood home and environs. Though my elementary school playground is torn down and the school is closed, the neighborhood and nearby areas are rich with the layers of my memory. They start in my earliest recollections and continue through my adulthood to the present. Some of those layers are obscure and deep, but they are made clear by being in the place or talking with friends who shared these spaces.

The other day, I reconnected with a friend who grew up on the same block as me, and suddenly old memories began to come to light–ones that I didn’t even know I had.

And then my kids are let loose on these places. They play in my childhood home, they walk the same sidewalks, they pick up sweetgum balls from the same trees. They provide both new layers of memory in these spaces and at the same time uncover more from the deepest layers that have existed submerged and dark for decades.

My daughter wanted to play in the fireplace which was always non-functional when we lived in the house. It is sealed up and painted. However, it is a place where spiders make webs, so my mom told her she couldn’t until we vacuumed it out. This led to a nightmare that night of spiders crawling over her body and a persistent focus on the fireplace and spiders. I forgot how much I hated spider webs when I was a kid. I loved the ones outside, the dew studded spirals and the funnel spiders crouched at the bottom of their spun traps, but I hated the dusty, ragged things in the house that touched my cheek when playing hide and seek or brushed my arms when taking laundry to the basement.

Today, I took my kids and my niece to the neighborhood park where I played as a child. They have long since replaced all of the equipment and even the location of the playground is different. There are two riding animals that have strong, uni-directional springs. The ones that we grew up on were mounted on very large round springs that allowed them to move in any direction, and they were very hard metal. As my daughter and my niece rode these new, safer versions, I remembered both the pain of getting hit in the face by a hot, metal animal and the sense of victory in making it rock in every direction while staying on.

I am really enjoying this process of exposing the old while simultaneously creating the new; this shared interaction with my children only strengthens and increases the intricacy of my connections to my childhood home.

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