Today, I am just kind of ruminating about how the world moves on. I remember that phrase from a Stephen King novel I read once. A while back, I went back home and visited a neighborhood where I lived when I was a kid. The block looks so sad and beat up. I couldn’t believe it was the same place. They had torn down Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School, where I learned to read, write, survive on the urban playground and ultimately, survive in life. The city had built a highway that passed right in front of where our old house used to be. The street where we used to play was basically gone. I could have cried.
When I was younger, I didnt understand that whole Thomas Wolfe You can’t go home again thing. I mean, I know he had a whole different thread in mind when he wrote that but right here it seems so appropriate.
Our neighborhood was one of those aspirational african american neighborhoods. When we first moved to that house, I must have been 2 or 3 years old. My older brother was probably 4 or 5 (I should ask him to be sure since he remembers everything!). A white family lived next door to us. Susan, the daughter, became my friend. Susan was allowed to stay up later than me but I could look out of my bedroom window and talk to her while she sat on her back porch.
Susan’s family moved sometime after we moved in and soon the majority of the neighborhood was african american. My kindergarten teacher lived around the corner. The kids in the next block formed a music group that made hit records when I was still a young girl. In the summer, the black panthers would set up street parties for us kids with games, food and movies. One day, on the way to my kindergarten class, I picked some roses from a bush in the yard of a lady who lived on the corner. When I got to school, I gave the flowers to my teacher. She thought that was sweet. A few moments later, the principal came in to tell me that the lady had called saying that she didnt mind that I picked the flowers but that next time, I should ask first.
I had forgotten a lot of those things. The memories came back when I realized that I couldnt go home again.