Sunday, May 18, 2008

Only across the street

I grew up in a smallish college town (one that's since grown considerably). There wasn't much to do, of an evening, unless you were possessed of a fake ID and a really short skirt. So once we'd seen whatever movie there was to see we would always end up at a Roy Rogers downtown. It was on one of the main drags, the street that separated town from gown. We'd get a couple of orders of fries and sit in a booth up front, next to the huge plate glass windows that overlooked this street and the campus on the other side of it. I can't remember ever seeing anything of interest, except maybe the one time our state representative was at the fixin's bar and it turns out he wasn't a hair over 5 feet tall.

And that was inside the restaurant. Outside, even though everyone in our little world passed by at some point, still nothing ever happened, or at least that's how it feels when you are 16, right? Across the avenue, on the campus side, there was a low stone wall that ran along the sidewalk. As Roy's was our preferred hangout, The Wall was where you could always find the kids from our district's "alternative" high school, the one for kids too bored or stoned or smart or unconventional or disruptive to attend the regular program. Never, of course, the twain would meet; we thought they were weird and they thought we were bourgeois and you know how those high school rules are, about who you can associate with and who you most certainly cannot.

If you're lucky or wiser than most you realize how foolish this at the time or shortly after. Of course it took me closer to 15 years, mostly because I stopped thinking about high school within minutes of moving that tassel on my mortarboard. Then one night when Jo was a baby I was on a message board, doing that new-mom thing. Suddenly another mother and I realized that we'd grown up in the same place at the same time, but we'd never met because she was a Wall person and I wasn't, and neither of us would've ever considered crossing the street to meet the other.

And I sort of thought by writing this I'd now arrive at a neat conclusion about how motherhood brings unlikely people together (and so does the Internets). Which I do think is true. But mostly I just felt like telling the story about the street and how it looked from my side then and how different it looks now. Not nearly so wide.


Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

We used to go to Perkins' and drink coffee. It seemed so ... adult. Thank god Perkins' coffee is water.

I loved this post!

Lady M said...

It is strange how such small division are impassable at a certain age.

the mama bird diaries said...

What a great post!

Isn't it weird how life moves so SLOWLY when you're 16 and you're always "bored." Now life speeds by way way too fast.