Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Time Travel of a Writer

I step off the plane in Michigan and I realize how strong certain memories are.  I'm visiting for my high school class reunion and returning to my childhood home always makes me feel like I'm a kid again.

The humidity enters me with the first breath I inhale inside the airport terminal and as I step outside I feel it wrapping me in a layer of moisture that I haven't felt since I moved to the Sonoran desert. When I roll the windows down on the rental car I smell fresh cut lawn.

Humidity and cut grass are a visceral time machine for me.

My cherished, childhood memories exist in this place. They are untarnished with the responsibilities of adulthood. Here they exist as innocent and carefree moments in time. The smell of cut grass is free from thoughts of having to spend weekends maintaining my property.

As a writer, I love that this place exists. I use my personal memories to create characters and settings.  My mission is to touch and kick around these memories and to see if I can add a new layer of detail or depth to my work.

First stop is a little place called Rives Junction where train tracks run along the edge of town with a charming little brick station frozen in time.  This station has never been used during my lifetime and still exists exactly as it always has.  The party store where I rode my pony up to the front and took turns with my friends running inside to buy push-ups and penny candy from the counter is gone. The post office has been replaced with a memorial plaque. Concrete stairs lead up to empty lots that once held small businesses. The park and baseball field are still there hidden by now mature trees. It brings back the feeling of lazy summer days spent racing around this field on my horse. Hours spent stretched out on the bareback of my trusty steed as he munched the tender grass of the outfield. My friends and I would eat our penny candy from little brown bags while trying to find cartoon characters or pictures in the clouds that floated overhead. The feeling that fills my heart is exactly the same here or at home at my desk.
The baseball field where my parents co-coached our team

The remaining skyline of Rives Junction

The buildings are aging but there are pieces of history everywhere

Memories come in all of the five senses. The tastiest memories I have from my childhood are on my "research" list too. I spend the weekend eating Coney Islands, Andy's Pizza, Deer's Ears and Wiley Potatoes from The Hunt Club. These foods are not available in Arizona therefore giving me an excuse to indulge in the caloric intake of a small island nation. Every bite delicious and loaded with guilt. (I have to schedule extra time on the treadmill since my return to pay for the lack of restraint I have shown in the past week.) I'm pretty certain that if you live in Michigan you do not eat these items very often.  This isn't where ladies lunch, small salad with dressing on the side is the antithesis of these restaurants. However, I skip the "Dare to be Great" ice cream dish at Loud and Jacksons' Ice Cream Parlor. And in my defense the fresh veggies from my friend's farm stand did help balance out the trip otherwise I'd return as a fatty solid.

The Good and Evil of Eating your way through time travel

Time spent driving by all the homes I ever lived in. 

Touring my best friends' family property. 

All of these locations brought back memories and nostalgia.

Riding horses, building forts and plenty of room to imagine

Playing under this tree and sneaking out of my bestie's house

My sister and I invite friends over to visit and I have my high school reunion to attend. It's time to revisit some of the people who inspire characters or traits that I use in my writing.

I arrive at the club our reunion is being held.  I'm an hour late, and feel a little guilty about being more than fashionably late.  I round the corner and the room is empty I must have the wrong date. Then I see at the back of the room a DJ (in a curly mullet) spinning 80's tunes and a table to sign in.  I walk toward the table where two friends from high school greet me.

After signing in and ordering a cocktail I begin to look around to see who is here.  I look out to the room and see a few clusters of middle age people.  Who are these strangers?  Where are my friends?  I'm having a moment, slight breakdown. My time machine is not working any longer.  Houston we have a problem.  I take my menopausal hormones outside to cool off and  my cocktail goes down pretty fast.  How can this be my class reunion? I feel like I'm eighteen still.

I re-enter the party and look to the small crowd of attendees, I feel old and don't recognize anyone. I think that another trip to the bar will make it easier.  I'm sitting at the bar and well, drinking. I text my friends who said they were attending and ask where the heck they are. Together we could do this. Soon my friends show up and we venture into the party and still, I recognize very few. Then it hits me- No one recognizes me either. (orders another drink)

"Oh there you are"

My time machine is not one that stops aging. My memories are strong, accurate and important.  My friends and classmates who I share these memories are loved and important to me. I feel like I'm eighteen when I think of the past. I spent time giggling and catching up with friends and family over the weekend like no time has passed.