Monday, January 14, 2008

The early years - memory bank #1

I've been doing a better job at writing down memories from my childhood. Now that I am a mother, I understand how important it is to share this part of myself with the children and preserve the time-line for future generations.

I grew up in Western New York. I was born in a tiny village about 40 miles outside of Buffalo.
We lived in this general area (many residences) until I was 9 years old. A lot of my family is still in that area.

This is Allegheny State Park. I have a lot of fond memories from this park. We had family gatherings, picnics, camping trips and plenty of time to be a carefree child. It is here that I learned to catch tadpoles, skip rocks, decipher regular bushes from poison oak, roast the perfect marshmallow and grow closer to my cousins.

I remember one time my mom and I went here with my grandparents. I must have been about 6. We had a picnic and afterwards, we all ran around the park, chasing each other and laughing. My mom lost her footing and fell by one of the slides. She broke her collarbone. We ended up staying with my grandparents for a few days while mom recovered. It was at that time that I left my beloved blankie behind, never to be seen again. Oh, I was so upset.

These are the roads that got us to Point A from Point B on a lot of our trips and errands. I didn't realize the simplicity of the roads at the time, but later, when we moved to Southern California it was a huge shock to see freeways and black asphalt everywhere. To this day, one of my favorite things to do is jump in the van and head for the country roads around our area. I could spend hours exploring the paths.

This particular road reminds me of the road my aunt and uncle used to live on (up until about 4 years ago). I was back there not long ago and nothing much has changed. It is comforting. My cousins and I used to spend long summer days exploring the woods behind their house, playing hide and seek in the cornfields, chomping on fresh from the tree apples, and chasing bulls in the pasture across the street (I don't recommend that for a childhood past-time by the way!)

It was on that dirt road that my aunt, fed up with our loud mouth ways, pulled the car over and ordered all of us "OUT!" We stood there laughing our guts out until we realized that she did in fact, drive away, leaving a trail of dust. We waited for a few minutes, confident that she would return, but she did not. I tell you, that 1/2 mile trek to the house seemed to take forever in my young mind. Upon returning to the house, we discovered that my aunt had locked us out of the house. Boy, we made her mad that afternoon (wish I could remember what we did.....)

I was blessed with many cousins (31 in total) and most of us lived in the same general vicinity.
They were wonderful childhood companions. Sadly, a lot of us have drifted apart through the years, but most of my fun memories surround their faces and antics. We did lose one loved cousin at the age of 16 after a tragic car accident. He was my age and it was his mother that we tormented in the story above.

On these dirt roads, I spent many stolen moments on the lap of grandma or grandpa, learning how to steer the old car down the road. I thought I was such hot stuff. I also remember stopping along the way to pick plump concord grapes right off the vine. I know that may sound 'bad' but when everyone knows everyone else, it really wasn't big of a deal. It was either a critter or me. I won. Ever have a deep purple concord grape? Wonderful!

The famous and beautiful Niagara Falls. I was fortunate to visit this marvel on many occasions. For those wondering, the Canada side is a far better experience. We were there a few years ago and unlike long ago, it takes citizenship documents and security checks to pass the border now. Times have changed. The area around the Falls has really changed too. Very touristy and busy. I remember when the Falls were surrounded by rolling green hills and parks. The parkways are still there, but they are in between museums, restaurants, bars, hotels and shops.

This is a hidden secret to most people. It is Zoar Valley and simply breath-taking, especially in the fall. This valley is right outside the small village I was born and raised in. Through the years, motorcyclists, hikers and nature watchers have discovered this natural beauty. Fair warning, don't try to maneuver through this area in the winter months.

I look forward to sharing more in Memory Bank #2 (in the coming days).
Stay tuned.


Blogger Nan said...

You are really making me want to plan an autumn trip to NY! Gorgeous there!

11:47 PM  

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