This past week I spent more days than I thought I would relishing memories of childhood in Albany, NY, both because I spent a lot of time with family while home, but also because I had to delay flights before returning to Los Angeles thanks to a mild congestion that migrated to my ears just while on the ground. It got so bad I couldn’t tell how LOUD I WAS WHEN speaking.
Walking outside the parents’ house, I strolled through the grass and remember summer evenings with neighborhood friends, gathering fallen acorns in a bucket. At sunset, the sky gave us twenty minutes of dusk so we’d throw acorns into the air as bats flew overhead (I’m not joking). I don’t know what our goal was — strike a bat, get a souvenir — but this is what we did.
In the Winter, my brother and I would run across the street, through our neighbors’ yard, and struggle to climb up Farmer’s Hill. I don’t know who lived at the small house at the top of this hill, but just on the other side was one of the main streets through Colonie, and beyond that a cemetery. Once we reached the top of the hill, we would turn and look down, across the neighborhood, the sky white and ground equally white with snow. Then, there was nothing left to do but jump on a sled and zoom down the steepest hill we knew of, hoping to stop just before you’d hit the bushes. There were a few days when the snow was icier than others, when even if you dove off your sled you would skid under the brush and protect your eyes from getting scraped by a branch. On other days, my brother would be unable to control his sled and slam into a tree.
But overall, this was the hill to beat in the Winter.
And in the late Spring, on the weekends, there was the corner of Westchester and Devonshire, where a neighbor’s yard ended with a wood wall near the street and we could sit and wait for the ice cream truck to come, always just as the game of kickball in the street ended.
Every year I come home to Albany, I reminisce, and I remember the sound of the basketball bouncing on the street, the one-on-one games at the neighbor’s hoop. That hoop went away years ago, and the ground around where it stood has been re-sod and overcome with new grass. In my own backyard, there is no longer a pool, and three of the largest trees I can remember are gone, taken out while I was in California over the last ten years. But the memories and thoughts remain, and make every trip home worth while.
The parents are pretty cool to see, too.