We blew town Friday and headed to the mountains on the motorcycle. The day was lovely with a slight chance of thunderstorms as we flew down 285 on our way to Buena Vista for one night. As a child, I spent many summers in Buena Vista while my dad worked his summer job with a mining company. Those summers had pros and cons; I missed my friends back home and was lonely; but Buena Vista was simple and beautiful.
My summers in Buena Vista began in late May and lasted until early September. I missed the beginning and ending days of school for years. I hated that.
I am not sure how reliable my memories are of misery during those mountain summers, because whenever I return to Buena Vista, I am pulled into a history that feels warm. The view of the valley as we enter town is familiar. The correctional facility that was once a reform school that Mom and Dad threatened to put my brother and I into when we fought. The Arkansas river current that I once believed I might drown in; the bakery where I watched a young girl fall through the glass display case. We went to the Comanche drive in where Bullit was playing, staring Steve McQueen. That movie gave me nightmares for weeks. Our cabin was simple, the Bar B-L cabins, but cozy and quiet. I think the venue is now called Forest Creek Cabins and has fallen into disrepair which makes me sad.
I remember the sheriff was feared, the haircuts were awful and the movies cost $.25. I made friends with a girl named Leta and her brother. Some afternoons I spent watching red ants going to and fro and other times I sat on my heels and created towns out of dirt, sticks and rocks. Those pretend towns were vibrant in my imagination and could occupy me for hours. I preferred to play alone.
I wrote a letter to Donny Osmond that my aunt stole and then read out loud laughing until she cried, while I hid in the bathroom angry and mortified. My love had felt pure until she mocked it. We listened to The Beatles “Abbey Road” over and over and “Lean on Me,” “Rocky Mountain High,” and “Maggie May.” Music provided the soundtrack to those summers. I remember I was lonely.
So, I’m not sure I fully understand the pull to those summers as we enter town. The need to find familiar spots and then tell Rob the stories.
Maybe it’s a desire to find somewhere in our life that remains relatively unchanged, where memories can become alive or perhaps it’s a way to connect with my parents on our past history. I can’t honestly say. What I do know is that this journey backwards feels comforting and grounding. Touching the past seems to say “yes, this was real, you existed long ago in this space. You were once a little girl.”
We’ve talked about moving to Buena Vista, but I always run up against being further away from the kids and missing out on even more of the growing up years of my grandchildren. Then I wonder if I’ve forgotten to put Rob and I first. I could live in BV without those other worries. If I was untethered, yes.
Friendship tends to be challenging for me. Sometimes I choose the wrong people to bind myself to. I don’t make friends easily. Cerebral intelligence and truth; the knowing that once someone reaches out, it is because they want to know you, not because you can do something for them feels rare. While I have many acquaintances, the women I call friend can be counted on one hand.
I’m in a phase where I sometimes feel more connected to strangers than people I know. This happens from time to time.
There is a thread in our lives that weaves through countless moments and memories. This thread will continue until the end of our days. I suppose touching this thread grounds me in today. The disjointed memories of my time in BV formed me.
We passed a house on Main Street that caught my attention. The house was pink on a corner lot and it had definitely had finer days, but I could visualize myself living there. After we returned home, I looked up the listing and yes, it was just my style. The original dark wood floors and built-in cabinets, enormous windows and ornate front door. The kitchen, bathrooms and lot would require hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring them back to life; money that might not ever be recouped in a future sale. Still, the house drew my imagination.
I suppose it is fun to imagine and pretend how it would feel to live in a new house. How it would feel to spend my mornings at a coffee shop in town, occasionally grabbing a donut at the bakery and maybe even writing for the local paper. I pretend that this town has room for me; that it isn’t all decided who does what.
The more Rob and I talk about moving, the more I don’t want to. We have neighbors we love, can walk to town and enjoy the Rec center which is where I feel most a part of the Louisville community. These are riches that would be hard to replace. As would my studio and gardens.
Visiting the past and seeing that while much has changed, there is also much that has not, is grounding. But I am no longer a little girl.
Maybe this journey backwards is what we do when we are exploring how we want to move forwards. Maybe this feels a little bit reassuring, weaving the different parts of me together. Remembering that I am yesterday, today and tomorrow. Maybe.