Just returned home from a joyous occasion; the 80th birthday party of Terri Lewis; a neighbor from the The ‘Boro; short for my hometown of Willingboro, NJ. This octogenarian whose youthful energy and appearance belies her age, was being celebrated by her children, grandchildren, extended family, friends and neighbors. As I walked into the catering hall which held what looked to be 100 or so smiling and laughing people, I found myself in a twilight zone experience, a time travel journey. No way were these people from my past in our 40′s and 50′s and their parents in their 70′s and 80′s. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we answered the call of the Good Humor and Mr. Softee trucks and oohed and ahhed at the 4th of July fireworks and watched movies at The Fox Theater and hung out at The Willingboro Plaza, enjoying banana splits at the Woolworth counter (the price was based on popping one of the balloons that hung over the counter and seeing what number appeared on the slip of paper contained within it ) and pedaled bikes through Mill Creek Park, up and down streets within sections of the town (one of the original Levittowns…sister towns in NY and PA) with names beginning with various letters of the alphabet, (I grew up in Pennypacker Park and all the street names began with the letter ‘P’, )and spent all summer long turning into virtual prunes from being in the pool from sun-up to sun down and went sledding on the hill at Levitt Junior High? Sitting at the table with Kathy Bradley and her Dad and the Etters whose daughter Denice and I grew up together, we reminsced about ‘remember when’? Kathy and I laughed when I commented that it was truly amazing that any of us had functional brain cells, since like many children of the 60′s, a summertime twilight activity was chasing after the bug spray truck and riding our bikes through the wafting mist…
I shared with Kathy about my Mom’s butterfly stories since her passing and she cried in remembrance of her own beloved mother who had died in the 1990′s.
The catering hall was on the grounds of the former home of the Super 130 drive-in where my family would go for an evening of entertainment; my sister Jan and myself clad in our p.j.’s, playing on swings and sliding board pre-movie.
After a sweet time with these blast from the past folks who were pivotal in my childhood, I took a trip down memory lane which I knew would be more bitter than sweet by driving on Pheasant Lane. I fully anticipated being dismayed, since I had been there 5 years or so ago, but when I slowly drifted past 123 (my home address), I cried when I saw what had become of the house my parents had taken such good care of. Unkempt grass and shrubs, broken down walls and windows in dis-repair….even if people are not financially able to make renovations, it felt sad to think that these folks didn’t care enough about themselves to keep up with the place. My parents had beautiful roses, tulips and forsythia, holly bushes and pussy willows…fruit and veggie gardens, in which strawberries lay like a carpet in the earth and zucchini the size of baseball bats would flourish. My mom used to make the most wonderful chocolate chip zucchini bread. I can still smell the aroma wafting forth from the kitchen. As I drove by, I hoped that the tears would symbolically water the ground that cried out in neglect.
I am grateful for my Garden State roots and have learned the poignant truth..that you really CAN go home again, knowing that you carry it with you, just like transplanting a plant..you take some of the old soil into the new pot, so that it can grow full and lush and beautiful.