I have a real love / hate thing going with Google Maps. I love nothing better than going there and typing in an address from the past and then flying down to the street level view and wandering up and down the highways and byways of my past.
The thing that I hate so much about Google maps, is that while it provides me a chance to revisit those old locations…. it also provides me a chance to revisit those old locations…. or rather, it let’s me revisit some of those “old” locations as they exist today. It breaks my heart to see some of these locations and the state of disrepair and abandonment they are in. Maybe it bothers me so because it is a true mark of time passing… of things moving relentlessly forward. In any case, I thought I’d drag you along to a couple of these locations and tell you a little about them… at least the way I remember them anyway…
The Arrow Drive-In
If you are driving out of Ahoskie on Hwy 13 heading toward Windsor, you will pass this place on your left. It is a traditional drive-in with the long awning coming out of the front of the building where cars use to park side by side. The waitress would come out and take your order while you were able to sit and listen to music of the early 60s coming from some speaker that you never could figure out exactly where it was located. I remember sitting in the back sit with my sister… drinking chocolate milk shakes and eating a deluxe hamburger and those wonderful crinkly fries. The coolest thing about this place was that in the late 60s my best friend’s family bought this place. I thought that was the coolest thing ever! In August of 1969 we left Ahoskie for Elizabeth City and I don’t recall ever visiting there again… but I still remember those burgers… and that ugly milk shake spilling incident that I won’t rehash here!
If you are travelling south on hwy 17 between Hertford and Edenton, you should take the left onto hwy 32… cross the sound bridge, then take the right at the fork onto old hwy 64 heading back toward Roper. Yes, my friends, you are definitely in rural northeastern North Carolina at this point…. mile after mile of corn and soy beans and peanuts. Not too far up the road was a little gas station / grocery / restuarant looking place called Simp’s. I remember summers visiting with my cousins. There were two things about Simp’s… if you followed the dirt road next to the building, at the end was the Albemarle Sound where we were lucky enough to spend an hour or two on a hot summers afternoon… and then there was the pit cooked Bar BQ! If it wasn’t pit cooked back then, it wasn’t worth eating. You could get a sandwich (with slaw of course), or minced or chopped. It was as good as Que could ever get!!
The Tomahawk Restaurant
Before the family moved back to “the narrows”, we lived in Ahoskie (have mentioned this on several occasions I think). Well, the Sundays that we didn’t make the trip to Elizabeth City to visit with my grandparents, we would often have Sunday lunch at the Tomahawk. There was always a crowd there after church. This was as fancy as dining got in my life back then. Looking back on it, it was just a little diner kinda place but I always love to get a hamburger steak and fries. What a treat that was.
And now I look at these places… and it makes me a bit sad. All the signs are gone, the parking lots have grass growing through cracks in the asphalt, windows are broken or have just been neglected to the point that you couldn’t see through them if you pressed your face right against them. Time hasn’t been very kind to these monuments of my youth. But as I sit and ponder them all, the memories of my youth take over… and I can smell the smells and taste the tastes and hear my the loud conversations and laughter… and those places will go on forever regardless of how they appear…
It was 253 steps from the parking space to the front door. A walk that he had made thousands of times before. The collar of his jacket was turned up trying to keep the cold wind from creating too much of a chill. His steps were a bit forced, his knees hurting from years of stooping down to get items up from the storage under the counter to restock the tops shelves for his customers. He is tired…. so very tired indeed for he didn’t rest much last night…. worrying about his job…. and his health…. and his kids.
As he gets to the door, he reaches in his pocket and feels his keys. He doesn’t even have to look. He knows the key by feel. He has unlocked this door thousands of times. Today is no different that any of them. Just the start of another long day in the continuous parade of days that make up his life. He gets the cash registers set up, makes sure everything is straight and opens the door for customers. He spends most of the day dealing with inventory, talking with customers, directing employees… just like every day. Later he goes up to the office and pulls out his journal.
The journal is old and worn. It is obvious it has been used for years… tracking the days of a working life. He documents the sales for day, if it rained or snowed and what the temperatures were (highs and lows). He sits and wonders…. will tomorrow be different? And he knows the answer, it will be exactly the same… just like every day for the last 40 years have been.
And so another day ends… the lights are turned off, the door is locked and the 253 step walk is taken again… back through the cold to the car. And back to the house to face another sleepless night full of worry and a tad bit of regret… and I can’t thank him enough for all those years of all that effort… just because he wanted my life to be better than his.
I just can’t help but feel that this new technology isn’t all it’s cracked up to be… yeah, it’s great to be able to connect with people you haven’t seen in forever and to make new friends… to have news at your fingertips… to be able to diagnose your latest ailment once you figure out how to spell it. To be able to work, nonstop, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But I can’t help but feel that something has been lost. As we run along at a neck-break pace to get to wherever it is we are going, things just don’t feel quite right some how.
As you may have read here, I have spent the last couple of years basically dismantling my past. My dad past away 6 years ago and my mom’s health has been in a steady state of decline since then. My sister and I have gone through the house of our youth, sorting things into piles of things to throw away, things to give away, things to sell and things we just can’t let go of yet.
In all of the stuff we were sorting out, there was this box… an old Heiress Hosiery box. My guess is the box itself may have come from my grandmothers house. It is all stained and yellowed. Hidden in the back of a closet, forgotten for decades…. But once I opened it up, memories came pouring out… there were letters, cards and hand written notes… from my past. Cards in celebration of birthdays and a high school graduation… notes of teenage angst, dreams revealed and broken hearts. I smiled and I laughed a little and I cried. The richness of these simple handwritten notes are a true treasure to me. And I can’t help but wonder… why did it all stop?
Today, we have a million pictures of every event that happens in our lives. Simple dinners with friends… endless sunrises and sunsets. And yet, we seem to be a little more distant from those in our lives even when we are more connected than ever. I really need to get out my note cards and write to my friends… there are things they need to read… in my own hand writing.
I realize I’m late…. again. Please forgive me… Living has a tendency to get in the way of…. well… my life some days… I’ll explain it all in a later post….
Memorial Day only meant one thing to me many years ago…. it was a day off from school! We really didn’t do much back then because my dad always worked. I was always just glad to have an extra day off from school. It also meant that the end was near! There were only 2 or 3 more weeks of school left and then the summer would be on. As I got older, we would usually take the day and drive down to the beach… usually down to Plover Drive where we always hung out. It was always so hard for me to focus on school from this point forward. The air was too warm, the anticipation of carefree days too great… and once I had made that first trip down to the beach, well, all bets were off then. Even though the ocean water was still really cold at the end of May, we didn’t care. Just salt air and sand… and no thoughts of math or science or history or French class. What a great feeling.
As is the case with most things in life, the older I have gotten the more reflective I have become about the significance of days such as this. Living in a military town it is also more prevalent in my day to day life I’m guessing than those more removed from such things. In any case, I so admire those that serve in our military. The sense of purpose they seem to have in their lives… the contribution to the common good… going beyond themselves. We should all strive to be that way in our lives I’m thinking… regardless of our lot in life. How can we not be inspired by those willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for us. I know I certainly don’t deserve that… but I am so grateful to those that are so willing…
Those that have followed me for a while know that I tend to focus on the past… the things that led me to this point in my life… well, some of them anyway. This year, those stories will continue to appear but there are so many things going on in the present that I am feeling compelled to comment on… so, here we go… just more seeking my source up the narrows….
It was warm for a January afternoon in North Carolina as I stood there staring out across the field. Cotton lay there scattered around amongst the stubs of plant stalks left behind by the mower that had clean cut the field after the harvest.
The long shadows of the coming night race toward me from the distant trees as the last remnants of the days sunlight fights to hang on among the bare branches. My mind is reflecting on the holiday season just past with all of its comings and goings… laughter and tears…. too much food and afternoon naps… long thoughtful conversations with my kids home from college for what appears to me to be the shortest break ever and I realize…. it is over.
Another holiday season is now history with some great memories to carry forward… and some not so great ones too. The semester is over for my kids… one more to go and my son is finished… at least for the time being. He and my daughter both still seeking their way into the morass we call adulthood. My mom, sister and I still seeking to find a new normal in our lives with mom’s not-quite-so-new living situation. We have thrown the last vestiges of the 2012 calendar in the trash… yep… it is over.
But just like a good book that you haven’t finished yet, there is always a new chapter. But in this one, there are only clean, white pages with nothing on them… the possibilities of what will appear on them are limitless. And so we break out our pencils and sit down and begin to write. What will be in the Chapter titled 2013?
As the sun finally lets go of the tree branches in the distance, I get back in my car and drive…. off into the next chapter.
Okay people… it’s time… the perfectly selected gift which you have wrapped so perfectly should by now be under your perfectly decorated tree waiting to be opened prior to you dining on your perfectly prepared meal by one of the perfect members of your perfect family…. right?
Well… I don’t know about you, but this isn’t EXACTLY the way things work in my world. Actually, as I stress my way through the holidays it becomes abundantly clear… I don’t know if I have gotten exactly the right gift. And those that I have gotten, well, my wrapping skills leave quite a bit to be desired. And don’t even get me started about those damn lights on that tree! For some reason the turkey doesn’t turn out exactly the way I had hoped a lot of the time. As far as the perfect family goes… well… any family that I’m a member of is definitely lacking in the perfection category because of my presence if for no other reason.
But for some reason, I find myself here… once again… striving to attain some standard that I have never achieved… and I can’t help but wonder… is this really necessary? I stress and ponder how am I going to get all of these things accomplished… make it all work out perfect for everyone. And the reality is… I won’t. No matter how hard I try.. it isn’t going to happen.
So I’ve been thinking back on the perfect Christmases from my past. And the reality is… there aren’t any. There has always been something that kept them from being perfect. But yet, I look back on them all… and there are fond memories of pretty much all of them. Those when I couldn’t find the right present, if I even felt like getting them at all, when the food wasn’t everything I had hoped for… those when there were huge, life changing family events occurring… those when financially there wasn’t much in the way of gifts… even that one when we burnt the carpet testing the lights… there was always something about them that made them memorable in a good way.
How can that be… and why do I keep stressing about everything this holiday is not? That I can’t answer… but I can tell you this much… I have decided to dwell on what this holiday is in my life… not what it is not… so the lack of perfection is not a big deal to me now… So presents aren’t that big a deal.. nor is great food… not even whether those damn lights are all working…
Family, food, friends…. and the promise of salvation for my less than perfect life that this holiday brings is quite enough for me….
So relax my friends… whatever you have done, is more than enough… as a matter of fact… I would dare to say, that even with any shortcomings you may be feeling… this holiday will be perfect.
As we are in the throes of the holiday season…. how could I not join in with the throngs of others and post holiday thoughts and memories… Just as with yesterday’s post, over the next couple of weeks you will see things I have always enjoyed about this time of year… and maybe somethings I haven’t enjoyed so much… as well as some thoughts in general about the season… so let the celebrations begin!!!
“”Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best — ” and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called”
When I was about 10 or 11 years old I use to sing in the children’s choir at First United Methodist Church in Elizabeth City. Our choir director would always encourage us to take a nap on Christmas eve because we were going to have a service that started at 11 o’clock and went until just past midnight at our church! Well, you can imagine how well that taking a nap thing went over.. yeah, right! No napping for this kid!
But in any case, it became a tradition. I would always look forward to that service… I loved it when I was in the choir.. and I loved it when I just attended. There were years when we were in pretty good shape financially… and there were years when times were tough because dad had been out of work… there were years when friends went with me and years when it was just the family.. and it was always great.. always so comfortable…. always so reassuring…
And as we approached midnight, you could feel it in the air… the anticipation that things could actually be right with the world… that peace could really exist… that men could truly love his fellow men… that the world could be… perfect.
I believe Pooh has it right.. as good as Christmas is… the anticipation of it is just a little bit better… no matter what it’s called…