I consider myself lucky. That statement is open for opinion of course but in my mind I feel I am lucky. I have the freedom to chose any course in life and for right now I have the opportunity to chose wisely. Hearing the death rattle of my twenties isn’t as scary as I thought and in comparison to many (which you shouldn’t do) I feel that the pieces are finally starting to fit just right.
I also consider myself lucky to live only 30 minutes from the neighborhood I grew up in as a child. After I turned 18 I pretty much left and never looked back so it has only been recently that I returned to drive through the old block . It really puts your life in perspective to get out of your car and touch the same tree you fell out of some 20 years ago. It is as close to time travel as we can get and of course I’m going to drag you all along.
The first stop is this little yellow and green house on the far coldasack of Heritage Glen. This was the home of my first best friend, Toby and his little sister Jenny. Toby and I were inseparable and in 1984, Cobb County was a smaller town so we were in the same class from kindergarten to the third grade. Just looking at this house, which hasn’t changed in the slightest, all these memories came flooding back. Maybe it was the smell of the foliage or maybe it was the eye-twitching Sprite themed colors of the house but I felt pain in my knuckles from Toby accidentally shutting my fingers in the trunk of the car. I felt the sweat on the brow after breaking the back window of his parents car with a rock where I learned from my father, “once a rock leaves your hand….you have no control over it“. A confusing and empty feeling in my stomach after watching the Challenger explode in the living room and listening to his mother as she explained that the astronauts went to Heaven while the pieces fell into the Atlantic Ocean. And I felt that familiar lump in the throat when his aunt explained that Toby and I should not be friends because he was black and I was white. The end of innocents happened in that house when I was eight. Wouldn’t it be a great world if if we could have that back?
Toby’s dad was hit by a drunk driver while driving a company car and won a million dollar law suit. They moved shortly after the settlement and my best friend left for Texas. Just looking from my car I could see myself shooting baskets in their driveway hoop the afternoon after they left. Even though I didn’t realize it then, there was a lot of growing up in that yellow house. But then again, does anyone realize it? Moving on……
Here we are at my other best friend’s house, Darian. I was in the fifth grade when he and his family moved to the neighborhood and we instantly bonded, like lamb and tuna fish. His dad was in the Airforce and getting his PhD from Georgia Tech so he and his three siblings where only there for a short duration but no matter. He left an indelible impression on me and made the fifth grade more of an adventure than it really should have been.
Darian found out girls where not walking diseases long before I did. I wanted to set things on fire, play home-run-derby with an aluminum bat and tennis ball and play MegaMan until my thumbs separated from my hands. He, on the other hand, wanted to call girls from our class and ask them questions like, “What’s up?” and “Do you like someone in school?”. Personally my patience for this was always thin and I remember sitting in his room whining that we should go outside and throw rocks at empty bottles or something. That is until he found out there was a girl who liked me and her name was Heather Wood.
“Heather Wood?!?!?!” It is amazing how quickly priorities shift when the cutest girl in class has a crush on you. No longer did baseball take center stage and after an intense third party negotiation between Darian and Heather’s best friend it was official. We were going out. Pretty amazing, huh? I didn’t even talk to her and now we where an item. That is until that following week when her crush turned to Keenan and I experienced my first heartache. Easy come, easy go when I could always find happiness in GI Joe and Taco Friday.
Looking at that center window of that house my pulse skipped as I remembered the feeling of a first crush. I don’t think anyone forgets that no matter what the duration or circumstance. I didn’t have to see Darian move because we soon moved to Phoenix but I don’t think the sadness was lessened. He was a shitty athlete but man could that dude pull some tail. Even if was in the fifth grade. I wonder how he turned out?
The fam and I moved back to the same house after a 2 year move to Phoenix, Arizona and the neighborhood hadn’t changed in the slightest. The only difference was a few occupants and I was now a teenager. And with teenage years comes a higher sense of responsibility and the need to make money. So I became the lawn mowing kid of the block and the house above was one of my clients. Now I am not proud of this story but I feel that 14 or years have passed so now I can tell it.
The guy that lived here was a bachelor who was about 32 years old and quite Magoo. He reminded me a lot of Jon Arbuckle from the comic Garfield. The type that would probably chose Bingo over Texas Hold ’em, use a tip calculator when the check comes, order from a fast food restaurant with about 10 special requests and explain to the cashier it’s because of the medication he is on, and sexually harass female co-workers not because he means to, just because he doesn’t know better. It was a hunch but that is how he struck me. Even at 15.
Well with that aside, his front lawn was pretty small and his backyard was 90% dirt so it was an easy $20. The only real problem was his dog, Winston. Winston was an English Setter that was about 400 in dog years. He didn’t have much hair, blind, constantly had his mouth all the way open and wouldn’t bark but howl loudly like a deaf guy being electrocuted. Oh yeah, and did I mention he had a blown out o-ring so he shits at a trot? Winston was walking death and I was a little afraid of him but my encounters were brief. That is until I was asked to look after him for a weekend while this dude went out of town for the weekend.
Keep in mind that I love dogs so don’t judge me for this. After school that Friday I went directly over to check on Winston only to find him laying in the backyard. I called to him so I wouldn’t have to go over and touch him risking the 1 in a million chance of catching English Setter dog death but Winston wasn’t moving. I approached the poor dog and found out what I hoped would not be true. Winston was dead and his owner wouldn’t be home until Sunday night. What to do with a dead dog?
Now I had a dog and he was put to sleep by the vet and I didn’t know what they did with him afterward. For some reason or another I felt responsible and I didn’t know what to do. So like the dumb kid I was I did the only thing I thought was right. I buried Wilson. Now if you have ever been to Georgia you know that most of the ground here in clay and it’s not the easiest ground to dig in for a 100 pound teenager. By the time I was finished there was still a snout and a rear paw sticking out of the ground.
I went home to try and explain to my father that Winston passed and my first real responsibility had had passed with him. Like the amazing dad I have, he assured me that Winston was just old and there was nothing that could have been done. Then he went to call the vet and asked where Winston was so we could bring him in. Then I told him I buried him. In my mind I believe Dad’s confidence in my decision making ability was shaken from that moment on.
Well, on Sunday I had the great pleasure of explaining that the only company Winston’s owner had died in the backyard. I handed him his collar and gave my condolences. With the same tact as I handled Winston’s death I told the broken man that this weekend was on the house. God, what a awful thing to say.
Ah…Sandy’s house. This guy (yes, Sandy is a guy) had all the cool stuff. He had a mo-ped, bb gun’s, a drum set, a tree house with electricity, a pool, and parents who were one of the kids. I had more fun in this house than anywhere else. There were a lot of sunrises that were witnessed from here, I can tell you. I guess every kid had the one friend that was liked only for the stuff they had. I feel a little guilty about that but then again Sandy was never that bright so I only felt so bad. I mean when the guy was 16 he was in an accident because he was changing the radio station, ran through an intersection and ended up in the luggage compartment of a Greyhound bus.
The last I heard from Sandy he was in a band as a drummer touring in Germany. He dropped the name Sandy and went with Sanders so I nick named him “The Colonel” and it stuck. I saw his band’s flier with the roster of the members on it. His name read, “Sanders Satler aka “The Kernel”. Oh Sandy, you never did get it, did you?
And this was the house I grew up in. I had so much to write about but now that I am, there isn’t much that will do to give it justice. I found myself staring without concern to how it must look to the current residence. I wondered if they knew that next to the refrigerator under a few coats of paint there are penciled measurements of my growth. I wondered if they knew there was a pet fish cemetery in the backyard. I wondered if they knew about my thinking spot outside the window on the roof. I also wondered if they ever thought about the people who lived there before. My guess is probably not.
It’s a great thing to drive through the neighborhood that forged a lot of what I am today. Unfortunately at the entrance there is a large construction advertisement and Heritage Glenn has been bought by a business park development and soon it will all be gone. Every tree, every house and every quirky thing in this 1970’s subdivision will soon be replaced by two large buildings and a parking deck only leaving these memories behind. I guess that is what happens so I am grateful for the chance to visit one more time.