D.R.: Collision with the past
I spent part of May in places I left behind long ago. There’s this curious blend of being in a place now where your personal history runs deep. You love the familiar sites. But time etches disturbing changes, too.
For one, we age. We don’t have to like the fact, and I confess that I don’t. We can choose to make peace with our advancement along the grand circle of life, and I try to. But we’re carried along either way, willing or no. The river runs on.
This year my wife flew in at the end of my annual publisher-editor company meetings in Reno. We spent a couple of nights in Truckee with a couple we’ve known since college. The wife set Mary and I up, in fact. Mary hadn’t seen them in nearly 15 years, when our kids were tots.
Time’s no matter here. That same easy friendship has not changed. We’d be buds today if we didn’t know each other before, but it’s so much richer with our history. And what wrinkles and gray hair? I didn’t see any.
Then off to Quincy, about an hour north of Truckee, in what I used to call the sawmill Sierra, before the spotted owl shut down the mills and much of the logging.
Ah, here is where a newlywed couple started their married life together, had their first child and I fell into this great adventure, journalism at a tiny weekly paper. A lot got packed into the nearly four years we lived there.
The last time we were there as a couple, our boy was 1 and we’d stuffed the Christmas tree we’d cut in the forest into the back of the biggest U-Haul we could rent for the trek to Holland, Mich., home of my next newspaper job.
Now he’s 19, with a denser beard than mine. And we look a little different than that 20something couple who arrived in town excited to live in a place where the trees stood tall and snow came down hard.
We arrived this time at the other side of town, full of memories, though no less excited.
We drove some of the old roads, visited Plumas-Eureka State Park where Mary had once worked, and headed toward Bucks Lake. In winter we Nordic skied on the road from where the plowing stopped a few miles from the lake. Lakeshore Resort, where we’d sit down to french onion soup and conversation with the proprietors, was closed and looked like it had been closed for some time.
We bumped into a former neighbor in Meadow Valley, eight miles west of Quincy, where we owned our first home. Warren Grandall had grayed, but still Warren, unofficial mayor of the neighborhood. Our old home was a mess, overflowing with junk, yards unmowed, fence unpainted. Yuck.
But hey, the fun thing about an unannounced sneaking into to town excursion was that we could enjoy Quincy as tourists. The core downtown remains quaint. We checked into the Feather Bed, the bed and breakfast where we used to put our folks way back when. The fellow running the place gave us the sweetheart cottage out back, sweet with the smell of rain, wet earth, plants growing.
Our first home was still there a short stroll up from the Feather Bed, and our neighbors then, Bob and Jenelle, are the neighbors now, although they plan to move to the desert next year, after Jenelle retires from the Forest Service.
We chatted in the dusk like old times. Bob is the last of a breed, the lifelong logger. No one is more gruff and friendly at the same time. It didn’t matter what we talked about ” memories, how the place has changed ” the casual act of chatting spun the clock back to the mid-’80s for me.
It was weird walking these streets. The last time we did it that way, we were kids not much older, really, than our own now.
We had to dine at Moon’s, an old haunt where we could not have a private conversation on account of knowing everyone in the place. I fully expected to bump into someone we’d known. No such luck, though. And it wasn’t the same place. New owners, cheapened somehow, stripped of the charm we remembered. The pizza we once loved was crap.
Yep, things had changed, all right. But we still loved the place, and it passed the ultimate test: Could we live there again?
The answer was yes, although we’d have to find new favorite restaurants.
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