I am constantly amazed at how our minds work, particularly regarding memory triggers. “Little Drummer Boy” is played at Christmas, and I am in my junior high chorus with my first set of braces on my teeth. My emotions and mouth are reeling from both anger and pain because I was promised I would not get those braces until after the holidays. (Incidentally, Grandma despises that song!)
The sweet aroma of freshly-baked bread transports me back to my childhood home in Boonton, when Grandma used to make hamburger rolls. Yes, it is true, your grandmother—who also worked outside of the home—baked rolls for our weekly meal of hamburgers. Although she cheated heavily in baking those rolls because she used pre-made frozen dough, those rolls still had that made-from-scratch taste.
On my recent trip to New Jersey, I decided to drive by a few of my former homes, which always blasts me back to the past. The house on White Oak Lane had lost that beautiful pink dogwood tree that Dad so loved, and the basketball hoop which we all enjoyed had been replaced by a new portable one.
My eyes were drawn to a particular tree at the curb—the one on our property which our neighbor, the admiral, had carefully lined with stones. Remember how I encouraged you to disassemble his rock garden and create your own because I was so annoyed at the admiral’s unneighborly behavior to all of us? The stones are still there, but rearranged by the new inhabitants of our former home.
The pen holding the farm animals at the cider mill is now overgrown with weeds, and more businesses and McMansions have sprung up around town. I felt sad seeing that the site is now so neglected.
The deck that Dad and a few family helpers had so lovingly built on the back of Grandma and Grandpa’s house is now gone. From my vantage point on the street, it appears that it is being replaced by a patio. Oh well, it will require less maintenance I guess.
My final stop was to the homestead where I lived for the first six months of my life. The house was one of only three homes located on a tiny street where the railroad track ran just feet from the front stoop. It was so close to the tracks that Grandma often said that when the train blew its whistle, they would raise their feet and laugh, pretending to allow for the train to pass by them.
Upon returning to the main road, I was suddenly zapped by a vivid flash of memory, which was of Grandpa and me filling up jugs of water from a spring located on the side of the road. Did this really happen, or was this just a figment of my imagination? I turned to a local Facebook group and posed a question about the alleged spring.
I am happy to report that my memory is working quite well. My query set off a string of replies from locals who recall accompanying their parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents to fill up empty milk jugs from what one person referred to as “liquid gold.” Sadly, a combination of safety concerns because of the number of cars that stopped to bring home the gold and the eventual contamination of the water shut this site down sometime around 1969.
All good things must come to an end.
Photos courtesty of Michael DeLuca- Boonton