Structural memories

Have you ever viewed the listing of a home that you lived in long ago? The visual impact of the images stirs up the memories nestled in the folds of gray matter. We lived at 510 St. Olaf Ave over fifty years ago. My father had been assigned to Vietnam and my mother, two brothers and I stayed stateside near my grandparents. This property was only forty years old back then, but it was already considered a vintage home- not a cookie-cutter suburban home.

There are video loops from our time here that my mind has kept ready at hand. The winter had been a snowy one and the sidewalk to the street has banked high with the white stuff. My grandpa stopped over one weekend day and tossed me gently into the cool crystals. The snow was as soft as a mattress and my Opa’s joy enfolded me as I sunk in the snow. My brother loved to climb up into the limbs of the massive old pine right outside the back door. One afternoon he took a tumble and mom said she had warned him.

I remember the inside as well. We had cats and they carelessly wandered all over the kitchen counters. My mom’s sisters would come over and bake bread and there were the felines, pressing their paws onto the cotton towels covering the rising dough. I’ve never cared for cats.

My bedroom faced the street. It was the smallest- my brothers always got the largest room as they had to share. My twin bed pushed up to the window which was adorned by a Swiss Dot curtain. The headboard was a nursery rhyme stitched onto a cloth, like a sampler but two feet by three feet. I remember thinking that everything must already have been invented, every famous line said. It was the sixties and there was a sense of accomplishing great things in the air.

It was a different time then. A man’s salary was enough to raise a family of five in a decent house on a tree-lined street. People weren’t shy about wanting to live near extended family to visit on the weekends and see the kids. But I was completely wrong about the finale of future accomplishments. It’s just that a few decades of social destruction put progress on hold. The dismantling and reformulating of the family power structure may just now be finding a balance. And that with that, creators and builders and innovators can count on a social base to support them.

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