Monday, April 30, 2007

American Idyll

Recently, I read Jeannette Walls' "The Glass Castle." One of these days, I have to review it for Lists of Books, but until then, let me just say it reminded me how lucky I was. I was eighteen months old when my parents moved from Edwards AFB to Hudson, so I have no memories of my birthplace. What I do have is a lot of very happy memories of my childhood. The house my parents bought was a ranch built in 1957, on about two and a half acres of land, with only one neighbor.

My brothers and I had room to run, a dog to run around with, books to read, each other to play with, loving parents and a wonderful extended family which got together monthly to celebrate birthdays and holidays. Granted, junior high and high school were unutterably miserable for me, but I had an idyllic childhood. I remember things like the paths Dad used the lawnmower to cut for us through the meadows, making a life-size red-winged blackbird nest for a school project, hours and hours of playing with my brothers and a zillion stuffed animals, each of which had a name, a personality and a storyline.

Every year, there were two indicators that Christmas was coming. The first was the mouse on the clocktower, a simple teardrop of grey fabric with ears, whiskers and a plaid vest. A few years ago, people with no sense of history decided the mouse was too shabby for Hudson's precious image, and he was eviscerated, and a small portion of his fabric used to make the nose of a nauseating cartoon-like mouse. The second sign of Christmas approaching was the display at the Terex plant. Nine earth-movers would be lined up in front of a huge dump truck along the front of the plant property. The dump truck held a large Santa figure, and the earth-movers were painted to look from the side like reindeer, with the one at the front of the line having a red blinking light on its bucket to show it was Rudolph. Sadly, I don't have any pictures of the display, and I think Terex stopped doing it well before the plant closed in the '80s. I don't have any pictures of the old mouse, either, and I'd poke my eye out with a sharp stick rather than take a picture of the new one.

Another icon of my youth is being disassembled even now. In 1978, the old oatmeal mills were revamped into a hotel and shopping center called Quaker Square. All but three of the shops and two restaurants are gone now, replaced with offices and a conference center. What is now the conference center used to be an Italian restaurant called the REA (Railway Express Association, I think), where I had my first taste of freshly made Italian salad dressing loaded with herbs and olive oil. Upstairs from the restaurant, for a small fee, you could visit a huge room filled with model trains, all running through the room in landscapes containing every accessory a train fanatic could ask for.


When the restaurant folded and the building was "re-purposed," the model trains were put into storage. Now, the owner of Quaker Square has decided to sell them all off. What used to be the little newsstand is being renovated and stuffed with trains, tracks, houses, stations, absolutely everything, and will open sometime in the next month. Every morning and evening, I walk past the shop, seeing a bit of my childhood on shelves with price tags on it.

Growing old is better than the alternative, but I wish the reminders weren't quite so painful.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i miss the restaurant too and all the model trains