I lived in Southern California for a few years as a kid. Not long, really, just five years. But they were important years, impressionable years; we arrived from New York State when I was four and left for Maryland when I was nine. There are things from that time that I remember as though it were yesterday. Come to think of it, I remember a few things better than I remember yesterday. So it was only natural that we took a little drive during our visit to Kathy’s parents and toured the old neighborhood.
Before our visit, calling it the “old neighborhood” would have been a little funny to me. When my family arrived, we moved into a brand new house in a new development on the edge of L.A. Our house faced out across a cul-de-sac at a string of vacant lots. The house was surrounded by sun-parched dirt, not a leaf of grass or landscaping in sight. By the time we left five years later, the vacant lots were occupied and the landscaping was nicely established, but the whole area still felt new. Sun still scorched the streets during the summer and what trees there were were small.
Twenty five years later, a lot has changed. Most of the streets in the neighborhood are now pleasantly shaded by tall trees. The area doesn’t have the clean and neat veneer that comes with a new development. A few houses need a new coat of paint, while others are in disrepair. And the tiny twig of a tree my family planted in our front yard towers over the house now, providing enough shade that the roof is a little mossy.
The entire experience was a little surreal. Twenty five or even more years ago the neighborhood we live in now probably looked much as it does today, while the place I called home for five years has completely changed character. Part of that is surely my perception, but part of it is reality. What will I think of Seattle twenty five years from now? Or fifty?