I changed the last names in this entry with the first letter and last letter of their respective names, an a asterisk (*), to protect everyone's identity.
They say, "You can't go home again."
I was in the Philadelphia suburbs for my mother's 65th birthday brunch. My entire family, other relatives and my mother's friends were at the gathering - sadly I showed up about 90 minutes late because of my late start from Hoboken.
I spent about 2 hours at the brunch, and when it concluded, it was 3pm and I was on the road again, headed back to Hoboken. While on the PA Turnpike I passed by some familiar landmarks, as I always do, and my mind drifted back to Richboro, where I grew up.
I lived in Richboro from 1975, when I was three to 1985, when I was thirteen. It was a land of rolling farmland, dotted with small "developments", which were enclosed communities of homes designed by Toll Bros. My school was Richboro Elementary, and most of the kids in my neighborhood attended the school. It was a young community, with lots of families starting soon to be angst-ridden, cynical, Gen X kids.
But during that time we were just kids. Having fun. I have written a few of the stories of my youth on the blog, and Richboro, to me, is home. It's where I, as a person, developed into the man I am today. I may live in Hoboken, but my heart is in those Philadelphia suburbs, and never left.
I saw an exit on the PA Turnpike, and thought, "Let's go back to Richboro." It was Sunday, 3pm, and I had a free afternoon. It took me about 30 minutes and a moment or two studying my map - I never drove this way to Richboro.
When I arrived at 87 Deborah Road on Sunday, in the cul-de-sac, I barely recognized it. My father planted four trees in the front lawn, which at the time were barely twigs. Two were removed and two were enormous after 32 years, both flanking the driveway. Strong, full, majestic trees were outside of my childhood home, providing a soft shade that I stood under while I just...gazed.
I think I stood outside my house for a good 10 minutes, just staring at...everything. Images and memories rushed back to me in the cul-de-sac. I felt very emotional, it just was overwhelming. I felt like I was in a time machine and was just waiting for Doug, Paul, Steve, Mike, Victor and Kevin to show up and start a ballgame again.
I could still remember when my brother, angry at me for not bringing the net inside, threw a hockey stick like a boomerang at me, nailing me in the back of my legs from a good 50 feet. I remembered our days playing baseball, with home plate at the Tr* house, the corner of our front yard first base, our driveway was second base, and the Ga*'s was third base. I remember our days when the cul-de-sac was our private rollerskating rink, we would roll out a boombox, and put on 93.3 WMMR or 94.1 WYSP and listen to Van Halen, Rush, AC/DC, KISS, Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin.
I was home again. For a brief moment, I felt like between two worlds. The world of the present and the world of the past. I could have sat outside all day, just watching the world go by yesterday, but the world of the present beckoned me, and my brief moment in the past was interrupted by a car passing me and driving into the Ga*'s driveway. I wasn't sure if it was Mrs. Ga*. It was a good 25 years that I last saw her. I was standing near my old home, with my camera out, and red truck quickly drives up Deborah road, and into the driveway - it was Mr. Ga*, I thought.
I approached them and called out, "Hi, do the Ga*'s still live there?"
The woman challenged me back with, "Who's askin?!"
This wasn't the response I imagined. But, as much as I moved away 22 years ago, Richboro is my town. I don't care if I was gone for 55 years, I grew up here and feel like the land still remembers me, if not the people.
"I'm Sean I. I grew up in the house over there.", I reponded as I walked closer.
The man quickly rushed towards me with an extended hand, "Well i'm Mr. Ga*!", he said with a smile. It took me only a brief moment, and I recognized my neighbors from those years past. Mrs. Ga* started to get emotional, to the point of tears. When I left them I was a stringbean 13 year old. It was a very nice feeling to see them, and we chatted for about 15 minutes, going over each of our family history and what everyone did with their lives. We all had a good laugh the Ln* family were always a bit of the "odd duck" family in the neighborhood, and the kids were always torturing them with pranks for years.
We said our goodbyes, and I got into the car, and drove around the rest of the neighborhood slowly, just taking in how everything was eerily familiar, but so very different with the changes to the landscaping and trees.
I past by the Sh* house and look at the driveway. In it is a white mercedes, and it could have been the same car from 22 years ago. I parked my car in the driveway and see a BMW with a "Lawrenceville" sticker in the rear windshield. Yep, the Sh*'s still lived here. I got out of the car and knocked on their door. I hear the door unlock and peeking out was Dr (Mrs). Sh*, my doctor and neighbor. She has a confused look on her face, and asks me, "Can I help you?"
I smirked and give her a wink saying, "Recognize me?"
The moment of confusion turns to clarity and she opens the door, coming out to greet me with a kiss. She's shocked, seeing a boy that used to be the poster child of ADD standing before her as a man. Her son, Ashish (aka "Sheesh", or "Ash"), and I were friends growing up, but as many friends do, lost touch over the years. Dr. Sh* and I shared stories for a bit, and she didn't look much different since I last saw her. Must be that Richboro water or something.
I told Dr. Sh* about my life, and that of my family. Showed her pictures from the brunch that day, and she marvelled at the kids and how great my mother looked. We talked about Ashish, and laughed over some good memories. I met their cute Alaskan husky, who was so very different than the crazy "Max", who was the chocolate Labrador Retriever that they could barely contain in the 80's.
I left the Sh*'s and stopped at the Lb*'s. I was feeling good and briefly did feel a bit strange showing up there. Eric - or as we called him "E" - was another childhood friend that I lost touch with. Like Ashish, it was just a matter of circumstance, everyone went their own way. Part of me almost felt like I shouldn't have lost touch, that somehow it was selfish of me to just leave like I did.
I rang the doorbell and Mrs. Lb* opened the door. She was much quicker to recognize me, when I said "Guess who?" with a smile and she responded with a: "Ooooooh myyyyy Goddddddd." She was home alone, and invited me in for a glass of cold lemonaide. We chatted, much like the others, and it was great to hear how everyone was doing in the Lb* family - which had SIX kids - and now she has a very large contingent of grandkids. Each child had their own story, and it was amazing to hear how they were all doing.
I left the Lb* house and got in my car. It felt good to see how everyone was doing. I drove around Richboro looking at Mallard Creek, Richboro Middle School, saw that Richboro Elementary was no longer standing, and went to Tanner's Bros. Now Tanner Brother's is a family owned, small town shopping center. It has farm fresh food, dairy, breads, meats and sundries. It hasn't changed since I left, built from concrete blocks and supported by faded green painted metal beams. They have homemade icecream, and for $2.50, I got a double scoop of chocolate marshmallow and went over to the fence outside the store to look at the herd of cows that were grazing the field.
I took a deep breath, and had one of those long, drawn out sighs, like my soul was free of burden. I was at peace with myself, and as hectic and crazy as my life can be, this was as close to a spiritual, calming experience that I have had in a long time. I was standing under the trees, eating ice cream, looking at the cows just like I did in 1980 with my family. The sun was setting, and a warm breeze would brush against my face. Everything was all right with the world, if just for this moment.
I was home again.