The old hometown seems
smaller than I remember.
Once, it was magic.
For Van Morrison, it was Cyprus Avenue in his hometown of Belfast. The fancy, tree-lined street where the upper class lived. Where a working-class boy went to dream and catch glimpses of aspirational girlfriends.
In my hometown, that street was Eastwood. It was a shady, tree-lined street with what passed for mansions in my little Missouri farm town of Marshall. And there here were even a couple honest-to-Pete mansions among them. Reminders of old money abounded.
To a Johnny-come-lately, working-class kid like myself, it seemed like the coolest place on earth. I lived on the other side of town. Not in the poorest section, but definitely in a different layer. My house was brand new, but it was a plain 1950s ranch house. Utilitarian and homely. Decorated in the finest Late Depression.
At first I didn’t have any friends among the Eastwood society. Unattainable, I thought. But when all of the grade school kids graduated to junior high, we were suddenly thrown together.
I became buddies with an Eastwood kid, Clyde, who, while he didn’t live right on Eastwood, lived close enough — a long block off of it.
His home was a demonstration of exquisite interior decorating, and his family a wonder of graciousness and hospitality. I felt lucky to have such a cool friend.
We played football, we raced slot cars, and talked about our growing interest in girls. I heard Sgt. Pepper’s for the first time in his basement.
When my cat didn’t come home and was eventually found struck to death by a car, I went to Clyde’s to play basketball. I played so furiously that I eventually egged him into our only physical fight.
Because that’s how 12 year old boys grieve.
In those days of flower power and Vietnam, we did find ways to wage a few political protests, and fight against what we saw was hidebound traditions at our high school.
We eventually began to drift our separate ways, spending more time with girls than with our old guy friends.
One evening, late in our high school years, we sat around a campfire out at the park, vaguely aware that our sheltered years in our old hometown were drawing to a close. Our oh-so-enlightened conversation including a one-through-10 ranking of our female classmates.
If I remember, we did try to maintain a sense of irony about it.
The photo atop this little poem is a recent shot of Clyde’s old house.