Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Scar Tissue

Highway 17 is the four lane scar that runs the length of Gloucester County VA, puckering the landscape with strip malls, car dealerships, and corrugated steel mega-churches. I marveled at how altered it had become over the years. Old landmarks were gone, and the Super Wal-Marts of the world had arrived to swallow up wide expanses of wild country bramble with hellish, heat rippling asphalt. A typical but none the less heartbreaking scene these days.

Gone was the old mill house turned rollerskating rink my friends and I haunted all through Jr. High. Gone was the dirt road to nowhere we had,in high school, affectionately christened "The Zanoni Screw Stop". It was there, in breathless curiosity, I touched "it" for the first time. Oh yeah, I was a bad girl.

Yet as I turned off the highway, down the back roads of my youth, the rural landscape seemed for the most part intact. It was still that strange mixture of farm country,and wide brackish rivers that have supported "watermen" and their families for centuries.

I sat in the parking lot of the marina situated on the edge of the York River lost in thought. It was here I had spent every summer from age 10 to 20 in the community pool. This was the place of my first summer job, and and a few years prior, my first summer crush. The job was as pool life guard, and it was the first I truly "wanted", so I took the certification class at the nearby coastguard station. I spent 6 weeks the previous January dragging grown men ,"coasties", twice my size out of the pool in mock drowning scenarios. Not as bad as it sounds, actually. The crush was a boy, not much older than my 14 year old self, who was staying with his family at the marina. On their house boat. The thing had a piano in the living room, I kid you not. We spent a week of summer afternoons on that boat, listening to "The Best of Bread" and necking on the couch. His kisses tasted like salt water and Chapstick.

From the marina, I drove down to the beach where I played out my childhood. Time folded in on itself, and I was four years old again. Sitting on the dock on a warm summer night, wrapped in my beach towel, and munching fruit loops out of a plastic baggie. Watching enthralled, as my father and his friends caught blue crab with bits of string, bait, and a net; I believed he was magic. To my four year old eyes, my dad could do anything.

I was not prepared for the tsunami wave of nostalgia that rushed over me as I revisited my old stomping grounds. I did not expect to feel anything but ambivalence. I had run away to an out of state college, eighteen and angry at family and friends who I imagined had never understood me. I had left heartbroken over a boy I loved with blind teenage passion, but he was selfish and cruel, and left me unsure of myself. I was more than ready to leave this small hick town where I felt invisible, and blamed everyone for making me feel that way. It was easier that way, easier to look outward rather than in.

I drove for hours, from place to familiar place, and the overwhelming sense folding around me like that beach towel was of home. For the first time I felt free to enjoy the memories of growing up here, even the painful ones, without them being blurred by the bitter film of regret. This place, for whatever it's worth, helped shape the person I am today, and I am grateful.


Maggie, Dammit said...

I'm speechless.

This was... awesome.

Vodka Mom said...

that was absolutely lovely. no shit.

Lara said...

Your best post ever. Really.

It's amazing how time can ease the feelings of wanting to get away, and somehow turn them into feelings of thankfulness to be back.

I think we all share those sorts of feelings. You did an amazing job of turning them into words.

we_be_toys said...

I told you! You really pulled out the stops on this one. The topic sentence right off is a flawless beauty and you take us along for the ride through your memories.

Do it again!!!!

Lynn said...

Wow, very well done.

You were not very far away from me! Dangnabbit, you should have stopped by for coffee!

Gwen said...

Maybe that's how we know we've grown up--when we can revisit our past without rancor.

Seems like we are part of Maggie's mutual admiration society. Nice to meet you!

FairiesNest said...

Wow...simply gorgeous!

Gypsy said...

Ok, seriously? I have goosebumps. I am not shitting you.

And that beach-filled, brackish atmosphere reminds me so much of my own growing up years.

Well done.

Heather said...