Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Huntley Hills: Driving Down Memory Lane

After a pleasant lunch with my husband and The Peanut today, I decided to leave the Quizno's in the Chamblee Plaza -on a whim- by turning into my old neighborhood.  (I could write an entire, seperate entry on how sad it is to see the once bustling Plaza now so vacant, save for the homeless-looking woman wondering the parking lot.)  Turning left out of the plaza, on to Longview Drive, my mind was quickly flooded with childhood memories.  Granted, I haven't live in Huntley Hills for almost 20 years, and only lived there -in fact- for six years, but I consider that to be where I "grew up".  This is where I spent my childhood.

First, I saw the little playground that was built years after we moved away.  Being a mother, my first thought was, "hmmm, do they have baby swings?  Maybe we could bring Carol over here one day."  Then the familiar houses passed by: Mary Catherine's old house (she moved away more than 20 years ago, but -to me- it's still HER family's house); followed by Mr. Welsh's house ("Herr Welsh"), my old German teacher from Dunwoody, who also had a daughter at Huntley Hills, in the same grade as my brother.  I wonder if he still teaches at Dunwoody -- he was a bit of an eccentric, he was.  I know, for example, that the nutcase would WALK from his house off Longview Dr. all the way to Dunwoody HS, even in the wintertime, even when he had daggum pneumonia. 

Then I came to the intersection of Plantation and Longview.  Always, I have to drive by the pool.  Always.  Turning left onto Plantation, I first saw the Grady's old house at the corner.  I'm guessing they do NOT live there anymore, as I see most of the backyard now fenced in, and a sign out front said something about a "wildlife reserve"  or something to that effect.  Hmm. 

And then I see The Pool.

I come to a complete stop.  Oh!  The countless summer days and evenings I spent, lapping up the sun,  splashing around in the water, playing endless games of sharks and minnows with friends, wringing my hands waiting for that everlong ten minutes of adult swim to end, being told infinitely to stop running, swimming lap after lap at swim practice and swim meets, and diving off the board at these sacred grounds.  Sacred for me, anyway. 

It looks like they finally redid the pool.  Wow!  I notice that there are fewer trees hanging over the pool and the tennis courts.  I also see, where once was an old pool slide (it was old when we moved there in '85) and the sand for an old volley ball court, are now gone, and appear to be part of the fenced-in "wildlife" of the ol' Grady's house. 

The old, little diving board is gone; but I believe they did away with that many years ago, recentering the one meter board.  Ah, I remember teaching myself to do a backflip off that board, over 20 years ago!  I also remember my diving coach, Grant, telling me to do a particular dive, and me -little shit that I was- looking him squarely in the eye, saying "no", and doing a completely different dive.  And I still recieved the Spirit Award that year.

The concrete seems to have been redone.  Ha ha!  I remember the summer of 1990, I believe, when my dad, along with the other HH handymen of those days, recaulked the pavement that was there.  I guess that finally gave out.  The clubhouse looked freshly painted, and -something else that I can't quite put my finger on.  It appears to be the same actual structure, but newer, nicer.  I wonder if they ever did anything with those God-awful bathrooms?

The baby pool was also nicely redone, and fenced in.  They also seem to have put a brick border around the big pool.  All in all, it looks great.  But that old wooden "deck", near the Plantation side is long gone.  I wonder if the kids still play Four Square during adult swim?  I wonder if they still have that same Ice Cream machine?  (Mr. Burnette used to be "in charge" of it, if memory serves me.)  Do the kids have someone like Faith, to "throw them" around the pool?  ("Okay Barbara, get into a ball.") 

After pausing for a long while, I drive on, turning right on to Commander Dr., for that short bit.  I notice that the house across from the pool, occupied once by my former diving coach, has stayed in the family, judging from the name on the mailbox.  Turning on to Ellwyn for that short distance, I recall many times going over to the Mineos, realizing that they, too, have moved away.

At the intersection of Ellwyn and Longview, I pause to decide.  If I turn left, I can swing by the old church and my old house, or I can go straight and see the old school.  I realize that seeing the school, after waxing nastalgically over the pool, would somehow complicate this trip down memory lane.  Perhaps I can only take so many memories for one day.  (The school conjuring up -duh- school memories, the Silverman's house on the corner, the Roberts house next to theirs, heading down Seaman Circle to pass the Hooper's old house, ....basically, taking my old route from school to home -- that's just too much for today.)

So I turn left, heading towards the old church.  As I approach Commodore Ln, I remember the time, at age 9, when I  fell off my bike  was thrusted off my bike, right in front of the Spicher's house (forgive my misspelling!?), whilst coming home from swim practice.  That means I was wearing a bathing suit, a t-shirt (likely an old green or red "I'm on a roll: Huntley Hills Honor Roll" t-shirt), and a towel wrapped around my neck.  That was the 2nd time that summer I got stiches.  Also the same summer I stepped on a bee, had 2 ear infections and swimmer's ear, and skinned my knee 4 times.  How did I SURVIVE that summer?!?

I digress.  I wondered where the Spichers were these days: Amy, Shannon, Matt and then the littlest one, whom my mother taught in one of her preschool classes at Chamblee Methodist.  I kept driving, spotting the Edwards' house at the corner of Commodore Ln. and Commodore Dr.  I haven't seen or heard from or about them in years.  But I always remembered their mother's name, since it, too, is Barbara.  I thought it was "neat" that their house was at the corner of both Commodores, AND the back driveway to the church.  (Apparenly, I was very easily amused as a child.) 

Then I see the church. 

Good ol' Chamblee Methodist.  Memories begin to FLOOD my mind. Again, I could write an entire seperate entry about The Church, where I spent twelve plus years!  I note that their is a moving (?) truck outside the back entry.  I wonder if something is being delivered to the church, or being picked up... 

Once on Commodore Drive, my eye catches Mrs. Gallagher's and "Miss Eileen's" old homes.  God rest their wonderful souls -- they, too, taught countless kids at the Chamblee Methodist preschool.  I note that Shannan Kelley's parents old house has been painted blue.  I see the Hibbs' old house, wondering if their youngest is yet out of college.  I see a house -possibly the Brambles- was torn down, and nicely rebuilt.  I see Afrin's old house.  Was it always such an eyesore?  Then the Oppenheimer's old blue house.  And then, there it is.

4160 Commodore Drive.

For the second time that day, I came to a comlete stop.  I could still see the creek banks at the very end of the yard, peeking out, all the way from the street.  The backyard was fenced in a few years after we left, and the swingset that my dad made for us was torn down around the same time.  (I'm still sad about that -- I recall him meticulously building that.  Oh, the hours I spent on that swingset!  One of my many childhood havens.) I recalled whimsically of Cheri and I burying out dead goldfish in the front yard, its coffin a pink plastic Barbie soap holder. 

Was the garage floor still painted, just as my dad had done so many years ago?  What about the little workbench area near the door leading to the laundry room, was it still there? Surely, the kitchen had been updated by now, but had they held on to the Saloon doors, leading from the kitchen to the dining room?  Oh!  How I LOVED stepping on to those door hinges, and swinging back and forth with the door! 

I wondered who occupied Cheri's and my old bedroom?  If children, did they know how to hide in the closet, at the back, on the shelf, pushing the clothes back in towards you, so they didn't bulge out, giving your hiding space away?  Did they, too, need a step stool to reach the sink in the hall bathroom?  Were they also short, and while jumping to turn off light switches, pretend to be basketball players making a slam dunk?  (Okay, so I was a little on the strange side.) 

In the backyard, did the kids play near the ditch, seperating our yard from the Bandy's?  Did they sway in the branches of the Dogwood tree near said ditch?  Did they enjoy the Dogwood, that bloomed every year in the front yard?  Did they dare get down on the banks, and explore the creek?  Were they daring enough to cross the pipe, to the other side?  Did these kids even know that there used to be homes, an entire cul-de-sac, across the creek?  Did they know those homes were torn down because they were considered to be in the flood plain?  Did they know that 20 years ago, children from one side of the creek would play from children on the other side of the creek, knowing each other -at first- only because they were backyard neighbors? 

Oh, I could go on and on!  But I continue to drive home, so my sweet little girl can take a nap.

The temptation to pull in to the driveway, hop out of the van -daughter in tow- and knock on the door is way too strong.  But I think some things are best left to the imagination.  At least for now.

After taking this trip down memory lane, I can't help but wonder: what images, what landmarks will evoke strong childhood memories for my children?  Will theirs be tied to All Saints Church, where they will undoubtedly spend time at least once a week?  Perhaps we'll join a neighborhood pool, or continue at the JCC, where they, too, will be self-declared pool rats.  Hopefully, The Villages, where they will spend fun summer trips to their Nana and G's will evoke loving memories for them.  Maybe the school(s) they attend, since they will go wherever their dear mother teaches, will help create strong memories.  Or perhaps they will create their own childhood memories from other locations, yet to be revealed to me, and to them.

Only time will tell.  Until then, I bask in the enjoyment of my literal drive down memory lane.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. I lived on 4067 Commodore Drive from 1964 to 1971.