Friday, May 11, 2007

Grover Street

This time of year reminds me of a little street in Beverly Massachusetts, and a number of other Maytime recollections that make me feel aged and past prime. In 1986, I was finishing up my sophomore year of college. My roommate Laurel had a little blue car that we'd zip all over the North Shore in. I'd drive without a license (I didn't take my driver's test until I was 21) and we'd have all kinds of adventures from Gloucester to Middleton.

There is a place in North Beverly called Nick's Roast Beef. I don't know if they are actually open 24 hours a day, but conveniently, they were always open when we were hungry at 2am. Laurie and I, and any assortment of other John Cusack Movie-esque people would pile into cars and go over to Nick's to stuff our faces with the foods that we (or, at least I) currently wear around our midriffs in the form of love handles and fatness. On the way home, this time of year, the air would be thick with lilacs. The scent would be almost overwhelming, and if it weren't for the fact that Laurie was driving 50 in a 35 zone fresh air wouldn't be able to rush into the vehicle and prevent us from being overcome.

She would often cut down Grover Street, even though it took us out of our way. Mostly because we thought it was hysterical that there was a street named after a muppet, but especially because of the lilacs. She'd turn off her headlights sometimes, and turn off the music, and we'd float at high speed past the homes of Grover Street and eventually over to Rte 22 in Beverly, which would take us back to school. Back to reality, back to a lilacless existence.

This memory comes to me every year this time as I drive to work or the grocery store. And it is especially strong right now, because the house we moved into this time last year is surrounded by lilacs, and they are beginning to erupt. I haven't lost sight of the memories that I had... but I have destinations of great importance, I am chasing something. I am never satisfied where I am.

In The Little Prince, the Prince tames a Fox, and the Fox teaches him of the importance of the wind in the wheat, and how when the sun shines and the stalks dance in the tall grasses. Because he has been tamed, he has these memories and so forever the fox will remember the one who claimed his heart.

And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat . . ."

The lilacs this time of year are my annual reminder of life with Laurie and a time when I didn't have a destination, a deadline or a purpose.

The lilacs are my wheat.

I actually stay far away from Grover Street. I never go to North Beverly. Mostly because I don't want to go there and see that what I remember isn't like it was. I want to remember Grover Street as twisty and windy and filled with lilacs. But what if it was really straight and boring and not as much fun as I recall. What if the fun only came from the fact it was Laurie driving and us laughing and the night sky filled with stars and fragrance? I don't want to be disappointed and lose what I have cherished for 21 years.

Recently, when we were in Huntington for my aunt's funeral, we drove past a house that I lived in up until I was seven. I remembered the house was on a very steep hill, and that it was a nightmare to walk up it every day.

Looking at it as we drove past, I wondered who brought the house down several hundred feet closer to the road? The hill? It wasn't a hill. It was a hill to a 5 or 6 year old girl, but to a 40 year old adult, that was no hill. The stairs to my attic are longer and more steep.

My recollections of that house are different now. All the details that I remember from inside -- I'd love to go back and see if they're still there. I have wanted to go back and knock on the door and ask to go to the second floor to see if the hardwood floor is still there, and see if the knot in one of the wood planks is still missing... at an angle where I could look down into the livingroom and watch tv if I crane my neck just right.

But I don't think I should go back and see. Just like I don't go back to Grover Street.

And on that note, keeping The Little Prince in mind... I'm off to work.

Chapter 21
"Good morning," said the little prince.

"Good morning," said the railway switchman.

"What do you do here?" the little prince asked.

"I sort out travelers, in bundles of a thousand," said the switchman. "I send off the trains that carry them: now to the right, now to the left."

And a brilliantly lighted express train shook the switchman's cabin as it rushed by with a roar like thunder.

"They are in a great hurry," said the little prince. "What are they looking for?"

"Not even the locomotive engineer knows that," said the switchman.

And a second brilliantly lighted express thundered by, in the opposite direction.

"Are they coming back already?" demanded the little prince.

"These are not the same ones," said the switchman. "It is an exchange."

"Were they not satisfied where they were?" asked the little prince.

"No one is ever satisfied where he is," said the switchman.

And they heard the roaring thunder of a third brilliantly lighted express.

"Are they pursuing the first travelers?" demanded the little prince.

"They are pursuing nothing at all," said the switchman. "They are asleep in there, or if they are not asleep they are yawning. Only the children are flattening their noses against the windowpanes."

"Only the children know what they are looking for," said the little prince. "They waste their time over a rag doll and it becomes very important to them; and if anybody takes it away from them, they cry . . ."

"They are lucky," the switchman said.

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