Monday, March 19, 2012

The Ghost of Weekends Past

While visiting Weatherford over the weekend, I had the idea to drive past the house where my grandparents lived near the Brazos River.  I haven't seen the place in around 20 years but I trusted my GPS and my memory to help me find the way.

We spent a lot of weekends there with my extended family - aunts, uncles, cousins, and eventually, my own children.  It was a meeting place.
That's my mom in the bikini and my dad on the far the tube socks.

Dad is filming grandpa taking a picture.  Mom is seated 2nd from the left in the yellow and orange top.
That's me on the far right in the pink sweater trying to talk to my oldest child.
Grandpa owned an old scooter that we were allowed to drive around the community. 
My brother Aaron driving me and my oldest child around the yard.  We are probably going about 5 mph.  I think the scooter maxed out at 20-25 mph.

There were often disagreements between the girls (me and a cousin) and the boys (my two brothers and a cousin) over who would get the scooter.  Then the negotiations began over who would drive.  Once when I was driving I took a turn too fast.  I lost control, went through a ditch and hit a tree (after my cousin jumped off the back).  Unfortunately I did this in plain sight of my grandparent's back porch to an audience that included my parents.  Burned my leg on the pipes too.

Grandpa and my mom, probably 1981 - 82

The house was just a regular house, not that different from their old one to me, not that we spent much time inside the house.  If we weren't at the community pool or park, hot rodding the streets on the scooter, or fishing on the dock, they had a big lot beside their house where a lot of touch football games were fought and won and lost.  We used Black Cat firecrackers to blow up bull nettle and sometimes other things when our parents weren't looking.  There was always someone in the garden or on the porch talking and making homemade Butterfinger ice cream.

That's grandpa coming out of the workshop.

Driving out of Weatherford to find the house, the way seemed unfamiliar but I attributed that to the fact that I rarely drove in those days.  Part of the time I was too young to drive but later I was always with my parents or my boyfriend/ husband.  Then suddenly something is familiar, a four way stop and a store.  It isn't the exact store that is in my memory but it seems positioned right.  After that it was easy, across the Brazos River and the community is right there.

A painted sign at the entrance reads, "Rio Brazos A Restricted Community".

My dad and brothers on the bridge.  At one time, the only way to get to grandma and grandpa's house was to drive across this bridge.  It was terrifying to me.  And is probably why I am not in this picture.

The pool is closed for the winter but the park is nearly identical to the way I remember it.  Some of the equipment looks as if it has not been maintained at all in the years we have been gone.  It is a nice day but there is no one in the park.  I go down to look at the dock we fished off of but it is completely gone. 

My brother Aaron caught a fish. We used cane poles to fish for perch and used worms or raw shrimp as bait.

I thought coming here might make me a little nostalgic but instead, it makes me depressed.  I drive down the main road reading the street signs to find the right street but none of them are familiar.  I stop at one turn that seems the right distance but again, I don't recognize the street name.  Fortunately these aren't long streets.  When my grandparents lived here there were only 2 houses on their side and, if my memory is correct, 1 on the other.  I look down the way.  I turn right and there it is.  I am not prepared.

If there were not cars in the driveway I would assume the house was abandoned.  There is a fence between the driveway and the front yard that wasn't there before but otherwise the main difference is the condition of the property, which is terrible.  It was always very neat and clean when grandma and grandpa lived here.  Not anymore.

You would never know by looking at it now that there was ever a bountiful garden and fruit trees, kids playing football in the yard, a family gathered on the back porch for a cookout.  There are large limbs down on the lawn and several piles of limbs and brush that seem to have been there quite a while. 
The house across the street has a huge limb on the roof and it also looks abandoned except for 2 boats in a carport.  The whole community looks bad to me.  I am wondering about the Restricted Community sign...what exactly are they restricting?  Definitely not trash and disrepair.

I was so sad after this that I drove straight to my parent's house to see my dad.  Maybe he and I will sit on the porch and make homemade Butterfinger ice cream like we used to and reminise about all the fun times everyone had when grandma and grandpa lived "at the river".  Or maybe not.  He didn't have any Butterfingers.
I know one thing for certain, I will never go by the house at the lake again.  The house my grandparents lived in exists only in my memory now and I will remember it only the way it was: cared for.  The way all of us were when we were there together.

Grandpa, Grandma and my mom

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