Just As I Thought

It’s a teeny, tiny world

Yesterday, on the advice of my “I’m not a doctor but I play one on the web” pal Jeff, I went in search of something called “Throat Coat” tea, hoping it would help quiet my lingering, hacking, gurgling cough. I stopped by a co-op up the road, in a familiar location.
This co-op is housed in the former Arlington Volunteer Fire Department Station 1, where my father the fireman worked for years. I remember spending the night there when I was a kid, way in the back behind a day room and the trucks. That was almost 30 years ago.
30 years ago, there was a Hot Shoppes across the street (now an Eckerd) and Mrs. LeMay’s big white house next to it. My parents have known the LeMays for decades, and Mr. and Mrs. LeMay lived in the big white house for my entire life. Even when Mr. LeMay passed away, Mrs. LeMay stayed in the house… until a few years ago, when it was sold and torn down. No one in my family seems to know where she went – with which of the kids might she be living? The inside of that house was insane – the kitchen was an addition on the side, and the floor sloped down at a pretty good angle. The rest of the house was dark, and filled floor to ceiling with Mrs. LeMay’s romance novels. Mr. LeMay took to sleeping outside in an RV parked in the driveway, I guess it was just easier.
Around the corner stands the house of Rose Sher, who babysat my brother and I for many years. All her charges called her “grandma” and the best treat was when she would take out her big metal pots and cook us some fudge.
On the next block is a two-story, two-apartment building, where I lived when I was, oh, 4 or 5, I think. I remember having my picture taken on top of the TV set, perched on a shiny comforter.
In the other direction, Pizza Pantry still makes fantastic square, greasy pizzas. The same woman works there as has since my Dad would go over from the firehouse all those years ago to get a Fillmore sandwich.
After a fire, Arlington Hardware was re-opened by the owner’s daughter. It had been there on Columbia Pike for as long as anyone can remember. Nora tried her best to make it work, and loyal customers like me stayed away from Home Depot and stopped in for nails and whatnot. But last year, the business couldn’t compete any longer with suburban big boxes, and Nora closed it up. She restyled it into Nora’s Arlington Gift and Garden, which was nice, but again, it seems like the Home Depots of the world have won. This week I discovered that Nora’s has also closed, moving evidently to somewhere, I don’t know where.
Farther up the Pike, Trinity Episcopal still stands, the church where I was baptized and the scene of Sunday school. That points out that not only places change, but people as well – I haven’t been back there since those Sundays decades ago.
It’s been an odd sensation, living in a neighborhood that I grew up in, trying to visualize the changes and the sameness.

1 comment

  • I didn’t realize you’d actually grown up here in my current neighborhood; one of the other gay men in my building also grew up in these few blocks–or at least had grandparents living here, I can’t remember precisely which at the moment. And my mother’s aunt has lived just a short ways away on Fenwick Street, across from the synagogue, since I was a child; I can remember coming to visit many times, and I even lived there the summer of 1982 while doing a summer internship at the State department.

    The spot where the Eckerd and farmer’s market is has gone through several incarnations, hasn’t it? I seem to recall at least a Bob’s Big Boy and an American Diner over the years.

    I too was very disappointed when Arlington Hardware finally went out of business.

    The neighborhood where I grew up, in comparison, has changed almost not at all–if you can even call it a neighborhood. True, maybe a half mile through the woods behind the house there is a new subdivision that wasn’t there when I left for college, but the other houses nearer my parents’ are still owned by family members, and there’s still the little general store at the top of the hill–though it’s changed hands several times. And it doesn’t feel safe to leave the doors unlocked and open all the time now, either. But overall, my little home town has changed less in the 40 years of my life than Arlington has just in the 15 I’ve lived here.

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