Dec 18


public school 133I was recently back on, what use to be, my home turf.  The holidays provided an opportunity to visit family and friends.  I had the good fortune to spend time with my Mom and sleep in the house where I grew up.  This afforded me the opportunity to walk around the neighborhood.  I often do this when I visit but this time it was different.


In the past most of my walks would be mission driven.  That is, there usually was a goal to be achieved such as to purchase something.  Lately I have committed myself to daily walking as part of a health maintenance routine and having my mission be the number of steps I take as opposed to where I need to go.


With this intention in mind I launched myself into a meandering process that pulled me in the direction of the elementary school I attended (P.S. 133).  As I proceeded down the street I daily walked as a child, a growing sense of disturbance began to envelop me.  I no longer recognized much of the landscape.


Here was the sawed off stump of what was once this magnificent tree, further down the path was one of those McMansions1 that with alarming frequency began to line the street.  The more I walked the more alien the landscape became.  Most of the landmarks and signposts that oriented me and provided portals for my playful imagination were gone.


This sense of dislocation was heightened by how few people were on the streets.  Gone were the groups of children playing outside, gone were the older people sitting in front of their homes watching and greeting their neighbors.  Few adults were around tending to the up keep of their homes. 

What had felt like a “Mr. Roger’s neighborhood” from my childhood had vanished.  It was more like a ghost town haunted with memories of childhood lost for which William Wordsworth composed a poem2.


Finally I found myself at my old school.  As I passed along side the playground where I had my climactic encounter with Clifford the school bully, only the handball court wall and the shed where you could get playthings like balls and bats remained.  The once formidable “monkey bars” where I had swung from and kicked Clifford in the face, ending once and for all his tyrannical grip on me, no longer existed.


Continuing on, I finally reached the front entrance to the school.  With each step a wave of associations from childhood arose.  Perhaps the most powerful was the sudden recognition of what were the boundaries of my known world growing up.  My last year in grade school I was the First Lieutenant of the Crossing Guards.  There I would be at the corner of the school assisting the younger students to cross the intersection feeling very adult like and important in my role.  What is now curious for me is, that despite my mature status and granted freedom to move around on my own, I had never ventured across the intersection from the school.


Such a seemingly little thing as this really struck me.  This was especially so since much of my life had been about crossing boundaries, taking risks and having all kinds of adventures.  And yet I never ventured across this particular line.  Standing in front of this moment of recognition conjured up in me all the sensibilities I felt as a child.  Once again there was the combined concern for safety and curiosity.


So in the spirit of being this child again I stepped over this self-imposed border of my childhood and entered into what transformed into a delightful period of play.  Once again I felt transported to the glee felt when a pile of autumnal leaves could be kicked about and I could allow the eruption of a shout of joy.  For a time my self-consciousness had evaporated and I was free from the bullying my adult had tyrannized my inner child with over all these years.


Despite the passage of years and the loss of what was familiar in my childhood landscape, there still remained something that, if welcomed, could rekindle the deeper recesses of my being.  I suspect this is what is inherent in the power of ruin sites.  Like the function of a hologram, fragments of what once were, still can resurrect the whole of an experience.  What is asked for is a willingness to shine the laser beam of awareness on the tiny shard of the past and the courage to enter into its potential.


1.     “In American suburban communities, McMansion is a pejorative for a type of large, new luxury house which is

judged to be oversized for the parcel or incongruous for its neighborhood.”  (From Wikipedia)


2.         “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”, William Wordsworth

1 comment

  1. Irene eisen

    Loved revisiting your childhood with you…I close my eyes and see you in your cub scout uniform. I don’t know why that is the image I see, but there you are, my youger cousin/brother.

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