I drove through my old neighborhood today, three blocks from where I grew up. I did so at sixty miles an hour. And I never saw a thing. Didn't feel much nostalgia either.
I grew up in a suburb on the northwest corner of Minneapolis, MN. The suburb was perhaps unique in that it was one of the "first ring" suburbs that had a downtown area, not a strip mall, and a community identity. It still has one of the finest little meat markets to be found in the state. It used to have a Ben Franklin store which was close enough for my brother and I and my mom to ride our bikes there. I bought Topps baseball cards, along with the hard thin slab of bubblegum, just because my brother did. I didn't know most of the players, and looking back at them today most of the players I had are long forgotten.
Today the community is hardly recongnizable. The junior high school, just across the bridge over the former four lane highway which is now freeway, where we used to ride our bikes for swimming lessons, is gone, townhomes and condominiums in its place. I never went to that junior high, although my brother did for two years. They closed it for budget reasons and bussed us to one a few miles away. This after they closed my elementary school when I had one year left there, and then proceeded to close the high school I was supposed to graduate from. With each closing, a circle of friends was broken, a young girl's thoughts on community and permanence shaken and altered in some way.
Today a freeway runs through it. You can drive through and see nothing but the walls they have built. You hardly know you are driving through a place where still somebody lives, a place somebody still comes home to. My dad still lives a few blocks away from the freeway, in the house I grew up in. He is the last person on the block that was there when I was growing up. It used to be a white, workingclass neighborhood; now the white working class lives thirty miles out and commutes, while the neighborhood is much more ethnically diverse and still working class. I'm not judging one way or the other; that is the fate of cities I guess.
Like I said, I don't hold much nostalgia for that place. I tried to live there a few years ago, and it was a terrible mistake. I am much happier here out in the country, thank you. And I was much happier when the family obligation at my brother's new house in an upscale neighborhood was over, when we had been to the new first Trader Joe's in Minnesota, which was overcrowded and understocked and no Two Buck Chuck sales on Sunday, damn antiquated Prohibition blue laws and that. I was much happier a hundred miles to the north, in my own little slice of heaven.