The Road of Memories

The Road of Memories

A Story by ctwood
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Memoir

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The Road of Memories

I grew up in a small town called Onalaska. Now, that’s ON-alaska, not Alaska. You would be surprised at how often I hear “You’re from Alaska?!” I’ve lived there since I was five, so that’s a lot of years of hearing that. Onalaska is one of those small Texas towns that have more church pews than butts to sit in them. It’s also one of those things in life that you can’t wait to outgrow, but once you finally do, you wish for the day it was a perfect fit. For me that time came the day I drove away from my hometown towards college. The place had been getting snug for a few years, but when my high school graduation came around, I knew I could no longer squeeze into my tiny town. You would think after thirteen years of living in that silly town, I would be happy to get out of there, and I was. That is until I had packed my car (and my mom’s car and my dad’s truck) and began to drive away. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized to get out of Onalaska, I had to take the roads littered with my childhood memories.

I couldn’t help but sit there for a moment in my driveway looking at where I grew up. My house is a white double wide with green trim, but my dad has slowly been building a deck all the way around. He finally finished a year or so before I graduated, even managing to put a roof on the back porch. When he was building the frame of the front portion of the deck, I was going through my gymnastics phase. I would walk around on the thin sides of the frame not yet covered by planks and pretend I was an amazing gymnast on the balance beam.  I never did any other tricks than walking with my toes pointed, but in my mind, I was winning the Olympics. I’ve lived in that house, with its varying sizes of deck, for eleven years. The yard is a clearing surrounded by forest and freckled with tress even in its innermost spaces. My dad has been working hard on flowerbeds around trees in our yard for years. It started with one tree, but now we have at least half a dozen trees or pairs of trees encircled by large, round, white stones and filled with planting soil and mini-forests of random flowers and greens. There once was a swing that hung from one of these encircles trees. It was just two long yellow ropes and a piece of wood left over from when my dad built our deck, but I spent countless hours of my childhood on that swing. The ropes finally gave out my junior year. Now only two uneven pieces of rope hang about half way down the tree. If you didn’t look up, you may never know they remain. The area where my feet rubbed during each one of my passings between back and forward was still bare that day I left.

As soon as I got to the edge of my drive way, which winds through the trees, I’m confronted with my high school right across the street from my house. Well really, it’s a middle school and a high school seventh through twelfth, but I was there only from eighth until graduation. It was still being built when I was in seventh grade. Before they put the doors and windows in, my brother, a few of our friends, and I played hide and go seek in the empty halls where my name now hangs for Leader of the Year for the first two years the award was given. I even painted the paw prints that walk around the drive and repainted them and repainted then once a year every year. I was part of the birth of this school, but now my time there is through.

Down the road, I passed the entrance to Yaupon Cove. This neighborhood could be a town in itself if you just threw in a store and a school. The home where I laid my head for my first two Onalaska years is in Yaupon Cove on the first street to the left, the first house on the left. It’s a brick house with green trim and a small, stone porch. The backyard is fenced in. My dad was the one who put up the chain link fence to keep our dogs, Lady and Domino, in. We have three dogs now, Blue, Prince, and Rocky. Beyond the fence is a layer of trees. In one of those trees, there was a tree house that I was only ever brave enough to climb up to once. There was also a tree in our yard. It wasn’t a big tree. It was really more like a single stump that had decided to grow a dozen or so arms. These arms formed a circle with an empty space in the center just big enough for a little girl to maneuver about in. Our neighbors Grace and Pete, two elderly sisters, had once, once long before we moved in, sawed off once of these arms giving me easy access to my own, nearer to the ground, naturally made tree house. The family that moved into the house after us cut the rest of the arms off until it was just a stump. After that it grew back into more of a bush than a tree. The house never seemed to be the same place I once called home once that tree was gone.

The very next street after Yaupon Cove is another neighborhood that I still after thirteen years can never remember the name of. I just call it Sami’s road because it’s where my friend Sam has lived those whole thirteen years. Sam was my very first best friend. We’ve gone our different ways in life. We don’t really hang out a lot, and we really don’t have much in common. We aren’t really friends anymore, honestly. We’re more like sisters. The first time I ever went down that road to Sam’s house, we were five and my mom was originally going to take me. Sam gave me directions, but the only part I remember, and I remember it clear as day, is her saying “You’ll turn on the first road and the road will go up and down, up and down.” For some reason I don’t remember, I ended up just riding with Sam to her house, and the part I’ll never forget is the two of us, side by side, going down that road with Sami saying “See, you go up and down, up and down” in sync with the motion of the car. Sam’s, now, expecting her own little boy soon and will be taking him down that road going up and down, up and down.

The first thing I would actually see if I was to turn onto Sam’s road, to the right, is a vacant lot. It was on this lot that I carried around my red bat and red glove wearing my red hat, red shirt, and red cleats with a pink tutu and pink pearls. It’s where I played tee ball, or, rather, my team played tee ball while I picked flowers for my mom in the outfield. The pink tutu was not part of the uniform. I was just an odd child. The field has since grown up and the batting fence has disappeared. Recently, they have began to clean the lot up again, clearing the weeds, cutting the grass, and preparing for the new generation that will one day remember this spot as I am now. I don’t know if any of them will have pink tutus in their memories, but you never know.

Past Sam’s road there isn’t much but trees until I get to Highway 190 which is the main road in town. It’s a cross roads. One way will lead you to Livingston, another town littered with memories from my past, the other way leads me to Huntsville and then further on College Station. The first place of importance that you’ll pass on 190 is Sonic, the town’s only fast food place. It was built when I was in middle school. To prove how little there is to do in Onalaska, we use to get together on Fridays or Saturdays at Sonic and eat at the tables outside for something to do. Across the street is where the only other kid hangout that Onalaska ever had was. It was a teen club called Millennium, where I had my third grade birthday party, but I never could say millennium. It always came out ma-lily-em. Millennium, however, did not last longer after the actual millennium. It’s now a bar.

Finally, a whiles down the road, set away from the street a bit, I found, along my trip, a large empty building with the letters “FB” on its signs. The “FB” stands for Food Basket, which was the name of the grocery store the last time it closed its doors, but I will always remember it as Bowls. We have a Brookshire’s Brothers not far from there, which is probably what led to the demise of Food Basket, but when my family moved to town, Bowls was the only grocery store. They didn’t have a toy section, but they would occasionally have a display of some toy or another. Once when I was shopping with my mom, Bowls had this stack of life-size rag dolls. Looking back, I don’t really know what interested me about these dolls, but I wanted one. When I asked my mom, I didn’t beg. I liked the dolls, but it wasn’t exactly an I-can’t-live-without item. When my mom said not today, I took it as a simple no and I was a little disappointed. However, I honestly forgot about the dolls until a few days later when my mom picked me up from somewhere. She had one of those dolls sitting in my seat as a surprise and from that day I loved that stupid doll. It had a blue dress covered in tiny flowers with a matching, attached bonnet and a white apron as well. Her hair was made of yellow yarn done up in two long braids with bangs, so I named her Sunny. I took that doll everywhere with me. I couldn’t sleep without her. Sunny is now retired and sleeps in my mom’s hope chest. Her bangs are long gone and her hair is falling out of the once tight braids. Her fluff has gone flat and she is no longer life-size. Sunny, I think, is why no matter what that empty building has been since or will be in the future, it will always be Bowls to me.

Then, I came to the main stop light in town (the only one we actually need), right past Stubby’s, a gas station I think will never go out of business. If I was to turn left, I would have found my old elementary school. I walked through those halls kindergarten though seventh grade. It was there I had to move my apple for the first time for being bad. It was there I realized I love to read and write. It was in that gym I played countless basketball games and tried out for cheerleader the first time. I still believe that gym is haunted. This school was such a big part of my life, but now when I walk its halls, it seems so small. I can’t even see myself there anymore. I see my children running and playing on the playground outback someday. I guess it’s as ready for the next generation as the tee ball lot. It’s not my school anymore.

Finally, I came to the end of town. What we town folk call the Big Bridge. It crosses Lake Livingston, which nearly cuts Onalaska off from all other land. Under Lake Livingston is mostly, ironically, old Onalaska. I guess it was just getting ready for the next generation at the time the lake was made. The shore of Lake Livingston on the Onalaska side has always been kind of been a camp ground, but now even that is changing. They’ve redone the camp area. Now, it has palm trees. For thirteen years I watched Fourth of July fireworks and New Year fireworks from that shore, but now I’ve crossed the bridge and I’m busy littering new roads with memories.  

© 2011 ctwood


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Fantastic write, riddled with a deep sense of nostalgia! I could really relate to some of these memories, like the picking flowers in the outfield for mum, and the odd outfits and living in trees. I left my small hometown, and have no desire to return, however. It provides a greater sense of conflict for me. Here, Onalaska possesses such a charm, and a sadness, through her inevitable change. Excellent portrayal...and that last line is superb. Fantastic account, with superb detail that left me feeling melancholic, and endeared!

Posted 9 Years Ago



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Added on July 25, 2011
Last Updated on July 27, 2011
Tags: memoir, growing up, moving, leaving home