Long ago, when I first read this, I was moved by the sentiment it expresses. Nearly twenty years later, I still feel the same. Thank you, Lewis. (Geez, I hope I am “allowed” to post this here!)
Moreland, Georgia –
I was having lunch here in my hometown with my folks, and Dudley Stamps and Danny Thompson, both of whom still live in these parts, dropped by.
We were boys together here, but we don’t see very much of each other anymore. Twenty years ago, we were inseparable. Then one day, I went my way and they went theirs.
Danny’s hair is turning gray. Dudley is losing his. They both have good jobs and families. They seem happy.
So we had this idea after lunch, and that was to take a walk together. Grown men rarely take walks together, but the weather was nice and since we were in the midst of reminiscence anyway, it seemed the thing to do to take a walk around the little town from which we sprouted.
We walked slowly, and we stopped often. We told some old stories and we had us some laughs.
We were walking through what used to be my grandmother’s yard where we played together before we learned our multiplication tables.
“Mama Willie’s yard doesn’t seem nearly as big as it did back then, does it?” said Danny.
It didn’t. What, I wondered, is the shrinking agent in time.
We walked up to the Methodist church. The vacant lot in front of the church was where we played touch football.
The lot isn’t vacant anymore. Somebody poured some concrete on it and put up a fence.
We walked down to Cureton and Cole’s store, or to the building that used to be Cureton and Cole’s store, where we met each other after school and drank big orange bellywashers and ate Zagnut candy bars.
Cureton and Cole’s store is now home to some sort of interior design decorator. That hurt.
The post office isn’t the post office anymore, either. It’s a beauty salon, and their trying to refurbish the old hosiery mill next door and make it into a museum.
We remembered the Fourth of July street dances they used to hold in front of the old hosiery mill.
“They quit having them,” Danny said, “when folks got to drinkin’ and fightin’.”
“They’re trying to bring them back now,” said Dudley. “Now they smell your breath before they’ll sell you a ticket.”
We walked up what was left of the old path that leads to the schoolhouse. Danny peaked in one of the windows at the room where we spent our eighth grade year.
“Dang if that sight don’t pull at my stomach,” he said.
We had to go to the old ball field. Dudley was our catcher. Danny played first. I pitched.
Even the ball field wasn’t the same. They put home plate right where left field used to be, and someone tore down the tree that provided the shade for the home team bench.
The walk was over much too quickly. Back home, we talked about the inevitability of change and how they should have left our ball field the way it was.
Then we shook hands and said we ought to do this kind of thing more often, which we won’t, of course. But at least we had this day, the day three grown men walked back through their childhood together.
I wish I had told them how much I loved them before I left. But you know how grown men are.