Little Legs

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I returned recently to my hometown of Greenwood, SC for a Cambridge Academy reunion, which I attended from 7th to 9th grades.  I have great praise for my High School in Virginia, but Cambridge was the place where I first became challenged to think and expected to learn.  Everyone who has had a particularly gifted teacher knows that good ones make a difference, and Cambridge had more than their share.  The learning environment was also intimate in that there were a total of 30 students in my grade, and we progressed through the subjects each day as a single class. 

And now it’s 31 years later.

I’ve visited Greenwood several times over the years, but I’ve never had the opportunity to drive around just to re-explore the old and no-longer-familiar.  My first stop was at Cambridge, which memory did not help me find due to surrounding development.  It seemed… smaller than I remember it, even though the school has been expanded since I attended.  But I have a vague recollection of a lengthy uphill walk in the hallway between the “upper” and the “lower” school wings (not named by their relative elevations, obviously) before continuing to the lunchroom, gym, or the Headmaster’s office.   I have to attribute this to the effect of shorter legs because, as an adult, the place isn’t so big.

Similarly, the neighborhood that I grew up in wasn’t quite “out in the boonies,” but it was far enough that friends’ parents didn’t volunteer to take me home.  Having now lived in Atlanta for close to 20 years, I’m accustomed to spending at least two hours to do just a couple of errands when they exceed a 5 mile radius from my house.  Everyone knows the story… lots of cars begets lots of traffic lights, which keep us safe while bleeding us of our time.

In Greenwood, I completed my entire sight-seeing tour in the time that it would take me to visit Home Depot and get a drive-thru lunch where I live.  I didn’t expect to find Atlanta traffic, of course, but in my mind’s eye, Greenwood should have been a bigger place.  When I was a kid, it took forever to go to the library, or the church, or anywhere else, and I could recount the minute details of everything we passed.  Repetition, repetition, and repetition from the back seat will do that. 

Many of those details likely remain, but I could hardly pay attention because, *snap*, I was already “there” (and, of course, because I was driving).  Still, in the two-hours I would use for errands at home, I visited Cambridge, my elementary school, my church, my old neighborhood (twice around), the college where my Dad taught, the downtown area, a highway where most industries have located, a (still) undeveloped road that had been part of my school bus route, and two major commercial roads.

Spring Valley is a looped neighborhood, approx. one mile in length.  It was a great place to grow up, with plenty of kids my age, a creek that we would dam to form a swimming pool, a ravine that we would play in, a forgotten graveyard that we would skirt, a pond for homemade rafts, paths to bicycle, a small river for fishing, a train trestle on which to flatten pennies, questionably constructed tree houses/forts, a dumping area where we would collect spent shell casings, pastures to sled when we had ice, a Mrs. Morgan to hand out fresh baked cookies, and many, many houses with doorbells to ring in the middle of the night when camping in a freind’s backyard (obviously, we spared Mrs. Morgan).  If my son should read this, please understand that we didn’t walk miles to school each day in the driving snow, uphill both ways like my parents did.  Still, it may surprise you that th norm was that children played outside).

I remember I asked my mom to play at a friend’s house, probably when I was 5 or so.  She resisted because we had to go somewhere, but still she gave me an hour to go play.  An hour!  That was ample time to have fun.  Leaving my house, this required going down the hill, walking past two houses, then past a distracting small creek/ditch that often had crawfish and tadpoles, and up a hill to reach his house on the right. 

It’s a cliché today to talk about how fast time flies by.  But, time was slower then.  And hills were bigger.  Little legs experience distance differently.  Here’s that “hill” from my very specific memory.

His house was just out of sight past the pine trees on the right. 

I don’t necessarily miss being a kid, but I do miss the sense of wonder derived in just a very short time while immersed in anything at hand…  the same things now generally considered to be the old, the familiar… the mundane.

On a different note, thanks to whoever lives in my old house.  It was great to see that it is as well maintained as any in the neighborhood. 

And here’s a picture of our most frequent target for late night door bell ringing visits (Note: if you ring the bell repeatedly, people know that it’s a prank.  If you ring it just once, they’ll come to the door).

We called the house above “the chicken coop” for obvious reasons.  Architecturally, it was a misfit for the neighborhood, and it just seemed like a natural target.  Today, the addition of the UGA flag in the yard should firmly cement its place in the crucible of natural selection. 

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