Saturday, June 03, 2006

Non-Memories of Fairhope

June 3

Some of us live surrounded by memories, enveloped in them, swaddled in them so tightly it's almost difficult to move. We walk down Fairhope Avenue and see what was once there instead of what is there today. We drive north on Section Street and glance to the left where a tasteless brick box of a building houses some oculists' offices, and we see instead the glorious retro-motel design of the old Parker House restaurant-cum-motor hotel. Across on the right we see a house being demolished and remember that it was the home of the Nahrgang family, with four kids of varying ages, and next door to it stood a house with a sign that said "Port Jane," Jane Porter's little pun on her own name and the fact that her husband was a ship captain, seldom home.

Others who grew up in Fairhope have left it for good. I got an email yesterday from one such ex-pat Fairhopian who writes, "I had not realized just how far back into the crevices of my memory cave I had pushed events of my youthful and carefree days in Fairhope. If you had simply asked, no context, 'What do you best recall of Jerry Smith?' I would have responded, 'Jerry Smith? Who's that?' That's how far back the memory has been pushed...All in all, I've come to the conclusion that it is a lousy memory, what I have. Although remembering doesn't cost anything, it does take a lot of effort. maybe I'm just one of those persons who doesn't have much stick-um on his memory flypaper, a neuron deficiency. Some people I know have a lot of stick-um on theirs. Come to think about it, not having a good memory is not all bad; no weighty baggage to drag along through life, trying to figure out where to comfortably store it. Yep, every day is pretty much baggage free for us memoryless oafs. Maybe that's why we are oafs; we learn a lot but can't recall it when it would be useful."

I have the opposite problem. I remember that the Jerry Smith mentioned warmed the bench of the Fairhope Pirates football team, sitting beside my friend the correspondent quoted, for a couple of football seasons, that they often played tennis together and were great buddies in the summertime. I remember his ready smile and the way he had of turning up everywhere in town, riding a bicycle because he didn't have a car, and then when his friends got cars he pretty much rode around in everybody's car.

That is the Fairhope of my memory bank. Kudzu was new, the gullies were still penetrable, drugs unheard of (but why was Mickey Johnson growing marijuana?), there was a movie house in the center of town, boys without shirts on riding bicycles until their parents let them borrow the family car, Friday night double dates, and a deep yearning to grow up and go somewhere else.

I try to avoid this part: There are times when I wish we hadn't.

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