As a 5 year child, I remember riding in my parents’ Chevrolet station wagon while we rode up and down what seemed like crater-sized holes on Pinedale Road in my hometown of Shrewsbury, MA. Up, down. Up, down. It was just like a roller-coaster. Finally we would arrive at our house on this short dirt road, across the street from Maironis Park and the shores of Lake Quinsigamond. We moved from that house a year later, but we would return to visit my grandparents in my childhood home for many years thereafter. The crater holes never get filled in. Up, down. Up, down.
A few weeks ago I was planning my 60th birthday reminiscing tour. I had Googled my tiny road and in one search, Pinedale Road didn’t show up. That was not surprising. I had not been back there in 30 years and even then the area was being swallowed up by apartments and condos. So I was fully prepared to return to the scene of Pinedale Road and find…no Pinedale Road.
Instead, I found just what I had left. Pinedale Road was there. The crater holes remained, just as I remembered them back in 1959. In our new 2014 Camry we rode up, down, up, down. Our old house was still there, too, the hedges that I used to trim for my grandmother needing some attention. An image of my past had somehow been frozen, seemingly just for me. And as I focus more of my time and energy on writing my own life story, while I also assist clients from all over the country in writing their autobiography in my role as ghostwriter and personal historian, I embraced this moment as a valuable and inspirational gift.
I made several other reminiscing stops. Our swimming area on Lake Quinsigamond was no longer public, which didn’t stop form walking the path to the same location. The stone wall we would climb to lay our blanket for a lazy August afternoon remained. I can remember lingering there for hours, alternating quick dips in the chilly water with eating our bologna sandwiches and munching Stateline potato chips.
I returned to Calvin Coolidge Elementary School. It had been added on to, probably at least twice, but the original section appeared intact. I spotted my fourth grade classroom with the windows overlooking the playground. And the playground itself was still much as I remembered it. I had a vivid memory of the mean second grade teacher who pinched my chin while yelling at me for eating my mom’s banana bread where I apparently wasn’t supposed to.
When I approached my primary childhood home on Lake Street, I lucked out. The folks living in a neighbor’s house were having a yard sale. I spoke to the woman living there and apparently our house was still owned by the man who bought it from my parents in 1972. He had doubled the size but the long driveway was much as I remembered it, and so were the woods headed down to the lake shore. I would spend hours meandering in those woods with my dog Gus, and then I’d take out our canoe – the fastest canoe on the lake!.
A short drive up to Edgemere Park revealed the basketball court where I first played pick-up games as a 12 year old. I swear I once hit five long shots in a row on that court…
All in all, my reminisce-and-remember tour of my hometown fed my desire to go back…and to honor where I had lived, and what I had experienced there. If you are writing your life story today, and you moved away from your hometown long ago, have you gone back to sift through your memories, to hunt for clues, to usher yourself back into a time and place that will inspire your autobiographical writing? If not, consider scheduling a return trip soon. Whether things there are the same or very different, the memories are there waiting for you.
- Autobiography ghostwriter Kevin Quirk assists women and men of all ages and backgrounds, from hometowns from Maine to California, in writing their life story. He is the author of “Your Life Is a Book And It’s Time to Write It! An A-to-Z Guide to Help Anyone Write Their Life Story.”