My fiance and I stepped up the planning of our wedding this week, which has been wonderful but also very overwhelming. On a typical day-to-day basis, I don’t make very many big decisions. I pick what I eat for breakfast, choose a scarf that matches my outfit (sometimes), and pick out activities for the after school program that I run. I do not choose fancy menus for guests or decide on venues for receptions and I can say with one hundred percent certainty that I don’t understand the point of a cake tasting at all. I mean, it’s cake- it has the cake-y part, the frosting, and as long as the bakery can decorate it to not look like one of those awful “over the hill” tombstone shebangs we’re good to go! Right? Maybe? I dunno. What I do know is the prospect of someone baking a bunch of different cakes for me to shovel into my face for free so that I can ultimately pick the vanilla one makes me feel like a terrible human being. But then again, I feel guilty when the employee at the supermarket bags my groceries for me, so I may not be the best judge of the situation.
Anyway, today Jim and I decided to run some errands and on the way to one of our stops we made a wrong turn. At first, I was going to go into my typical mode of being the overbearing passenger-seat-driver and tell him how to re-route ourselves (despite the fact that he is perfectly aware of exactly where we were and where we were going) when instead I began to direct him elsewhere.
“There’s somewhere that I want to go.” I said, pointing to a fork in the road. “Turn left up here.”
I would like to point out that Jim didn’t ask me where we were going. He has that kind of faith in people that I admire- he didn’t care where we were going or that I was clearly uncertain of the directions, he just knew that there was a place that I needed to end up, and he was going to help get me there. If he had asked, I don’t think I could have continued to give him directions. To be honest, where we were going was somewhere that I hadn’t been in nearly a decade (by my estimate), and I couldn’t bear the thought of telling him where we were going if I wasn’t going to be able to find it again. It was just one of those things. So he drove and I pointed out a right hand turn, then a left. We ended up on a winding residential road that I wasn’t sure if I recognized, and I felt the small bit of confidence that I had had start to dampen.
Finally, the curving road came to a W-shaped intersection that made my heart jump.
“Take the center fork, and make a left.” I said. I recognized it. For years, I had made that car ride five or six times a week, sometimes more. I had been relying on a sort of muscle memory, the way that a car jolts you back and forth, the sound of a blinker, the look of those large houses that stare down at you from corners, to lead me back.
We made the left, drove to the end of the block, and Jim stopped the car when he saw my body turn completely in my seat. I didn’t even have to say anything. He just knew.
The house looked nearly exactly how I remembered it, except that it’s not white anymore- it’s a pretty beige now, with trim around the windows. Even so, the row of windows that line the dining area of the eat-in kitchen were just where they were supposed to be, with a small jutting room that was a walk in pantry. When I was a kid, one of those shelves was stacked with Goosebumps books that my uncle had bought me. Over the years I read almost all of them, and then when I was too old to read them they were read by my brother. On the night before Halloween my aunt made popcorn in a pan in that kitchen. I did my homework up until I was in the sixth grade at the kitchen table. The phone that was connected to a number that I had been taught to memorize by singing it to a certain tune was connected to the wall behind the kitchen door. I wondered if the thick green carpet in the living room had been replaced, and if the current residents thought it was weird that the hall closet was actually a blocked-off staircase that used to lead to the second floor.
After a few minutes Jim parked the car and we got out. The property had a few days worth of newspapers piled on the front stoop, so I knew that no one was home. I pointed out the front porch, and showed him the window that had broken once during a hurricane. The big holly tree was there, and I thought that it looked bigger, but I didn’t know if it was actually bigger or if I just was remembering it from a smaller perspective. We walked around the side and I showed Jim where my uncle had parked his boat, back when he had one. There was a patch of dirt in the yard that hadn’t grown back, and I told Jim that that was where my cousin’s playhouse had been when we were kids. I have no idea if the patch never grew back, or if there was another reason for its grasslessness, but I was okay with not knowing. I told him about the kids that used to live next door and across the street that we played with sometimes.
We didn’t stay very long- I didn’t need to. I have a couple places that I called “home” as a kid. Most of them are only a town or two over from where I live now, I pass them every few weeks and don’t really think much about it. This house, which I technically never lived in, hadn’t even been a second thought for nearly a decade. But something drew me to it today, and it was kind of comforting to see that it was still standing. Not only was it still standing, but it wasn’t very different at all. Not only that, but it was still filled with memories. This is something that I can appreciate now that I live on my own; places hold memories just as much as people do. I suppose you just have to know where to look.
In the end we returned to our errands and continued to go about our day, neither of us mentioning the interlude into nostalgia that had taken place.