The places of one’s childhood seem to shrink over time, don’t they?
It’s been a lot of years since I set foot into The Woods near my childhood home. Since I left, the city has invested dollars and energy into a great big tidy-up, complete with a revamped community centre and plastic play structures to replace the rusty metal slide in the clearing. The trails are wide and mulched, no longer winding narrowly through gnarled roots. Today’s walk from start to finish ended abruptly, and I was a bit surprised. Disappointed, even. My childhood self remembers hiking for miles. Back then the woods seemed dark, wild, looming. Some trees are holding on to a golden glow in the fall afternoon light, but many are now bare, and the ceiling today felt open and airy.
I’d been so sure of my memories of this place. I know it had changed, and I know I was viewing it through the lens of adulthood, but all the same I was reminded how fragile our memories are. How fragmented, how pliant. How unsettling it can feel if the truth of our memories has been cast into doubt, almost as though they must have belonged to someone else. Which, of course, they did.
Sometimes it’s better to remember something the way it used to be. But in other situations, I suppose it’s somehow satisfying to witness that the wheel has turned, that change is inevitable, both in the subject of one’s memory but also within one’s self.
One more thing: Wooden fences have been added along parts of the trail. This photo’s not great, so here are the words recorded on the pictured fence: “It’s not where you started in life, it’s where you end up. Believe in yourself! :)” Ah! Some uplifting graffiti, how refreshing. A nice touch.
Then, “I’m sorry you know all roads lead to home”
As in, “I’m sorry. You know all roads lead to home.”? Or perhaps “I’m sorry, you know. All roads lead to home.”?
Wherever the punctuation was meant to lie, I guess the writer was disappointed about the roads leading home. Maybe s/he didn’t want to go back there.
As for me – though it wasn’t exactly what I’d expected, I’m glad I did.