Thursday, February 7, 2008

Goin' Home

In 1943, when I was twelve, I saw a movie, The Human Comedy.   In one small scene, Ulysses, a very young, freckle-faced lad in denim over-alls, was running home across the fields when he heard by the wail of its whistle that a train was coming. He hurried to stand by the railroad tracks and watch it thunder by, and saw that atop one of the cars was an old hobo.  The man smiled and waved to Ulysses, and Ulysses, wordless, lifted his little arm and waved back.  Then as the train sped on past, the man shouted into the air, “I'm goin' home, boy.  I'm goin' home.”  Not yet aware of the breadth of emotions a young girl's emerging hormones can engender, I was puzzled by the wistful sadness the scene caused to well up in me.  I wanted “to be goin' home” too, which was silly, because I was homenever having yet left it.

Sometimes even now I wish I could be goin' home – if only for a brief moment – to that big old two-family red-brick house, that wonderful, happy house of my childhood.

Picture a big red house

On a hilltop high.

Maybe the hill wasn't all that high.

And the house not all that big.

But I was small

And that is how

I saw it then

And see it now

We lived upstairs from Joey's family.

Four years older than I was he,

And so far superior intellectually

That his peers bullied him mercilessly,

Which was unfortunate for him, but  lucky for me

For he became my friend, and teacher as well. 

And oh! such wonderfully imaginative tales 

He invented for me and would tell!

Then with my family I moved away.

We went our separate ways.

And he, friendless, alone complied

With mental ills that multiplied.

While for me, other friendships

(Some still endure)

Filled my life and my days.

I just wish I had visited him more.

In June of 2006, my dear cousin Joey died.  The house with a soul of its own has been sold.  But all those precious childhood memories are mine to my dying day, to be played and replayed in my head – a kaleidoscope of Joey and me.