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Remember: Passings

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I started the day at Canal Park with my Uncle David. David is 66 years old and grew up in Allentown before joining the Air Force in the sixties and eventually ending up in Nashville Tennessee. David wanted to see what was left of the A+B, the old textile mills and the train stations along the American Parkway.

David told me he remembered the old bridge over the Lehigh before the flood took it out in the fifties.

Watching my uncle look around, I was genuinely jealous of what he was able to see when he looked at the same things I was viewing. He remembers Allentown as the manufacturing and textile hub that I have never experienced.

We headed over to what I remember being called the B+G Train Station, and what was last known as Bananas when in business. The old station has been closed for awhile now, following a series of criminal activities. I hope it doesn’t end up the way of the Neuweiler Brewery.

David headed towards the creek, trying to find a ruin left of the other train station that used to exist there. David and I found only homeless people who were rather unhappy to see us. I noticed David hesitated when he walked. I hadn’t seen him do that before.

Heading home, I listened to David tell me stories of Allentown in the fifties and sixties. The day was warming quickly and the early cold evaporated into what felt like the first genuine beginning of spring. I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Spring fever had hit facebook. The first status update I saw came from my friend Erica who wanted to go to a park and play Frisbee. The updates continued. I intended to get to the park, but my car broke down and plans changed.

In the evening, my uncle and the rest of my family headed to an annual St. Patrick’s Day extravaganza held by close family friends. The night started off well, with warm and wonderfully excessive servings of corned beef and cabbage. Beer flowed freely, and soon tongues followed. I sat and listened to my parents, my uncle, and the Ryan girls talk about their collective pasts.

One of the Ryan girls told us that she was retiring after 25 years working for the Allentown School District. She said that things had changed to the point where she no longer recognized the place that had been a second home for a quarter of a century. Her eyes filled, and she suddenly looked old, I asked her for her age. She told me she was 62.

I thought of the woman or man that she replaced 25 years ago. I wondered if that person, upon retiring, said what she was saying to me at the table. I wondered if she was as afraid for the future, as afraid of the change around her. I wondered if she thought everything was going to hell in a handbasket too.

The conversation turned quickly to the way things used to be. I heard details of neighborhoods in downtown Allentown full of houses with unlocked doors, of people coming and going all as friends, of dinners shared, marriages attended, funerals mourned in tandem. .

I heard about everyone who was missing. The people they said should be there, the ones buried in chemotherapy, the ground or unfortunate circumstances. With every name, their eyes grew wetter.

Going outside, at the back end of the parking lot a baseball field’s snowcover was melting with the sunset.

The season was beginning its passing.

What will we miss, in the weeks to come, the years that will pass; the faces lost to time or death, I don’t know. My uncle is forty years my elder. I can’t imagine what observations I may share with a nephew forty years from today and I wonder if what I have now will be viewed with rose tinted glasses, glorified. For now, it all seems half the existence that my parent’s generation had, and I feel genuinely sad for missing it.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, the way things used to be...

...we're all just a bunch of haters.

The people who know how things used to be, that is.

Don't worry. We're dying off or being chased away!

March 11, 2010 at 11:47 AM  

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