Going Down Memory Lane

No, Memory isn't Lois' sister.

Lately, for the past couple years, I've been going to various spots that I used to hang out as a kid. I remember driving to the street where I used play kickball, where my best friend and I used to play with his Star Wars figures. The ones that are worth a lot of money today.

Those were the days way before cell phones were in. But all my friend's mother had to do was holler, "Jason!", and like a cub, he would scurry on back home. Even today, I marvel at that.

Jason was my first best friend. He was a big boy. Funny. Full of happiness. Why wouldn't he? He had grandparents that had always brought a mountainous pile of gifts when they visited for Christmas. Santa would shove one gift under the tree for me to share with my niece. We were close in age. Jason was always kind enough to share his loot with me. He helped me learn how to ride a bike. He had an old Spider Man one that had training wheels. We removed them, and I was off riding the bike for a second before falling off.

About a dozen times later I asked, "Can't seem to get it to work. How do you ride a bike?"

Jason thought for a moment and said, "You just run, jump on, and try not to fall."

Oh. Was that all?

When I was in elementary school, a few of us had gone to the cemetery just to check it out. At the time, most of the graves were really old. From the dates, a lot of the people that were buried there were born in the 1800's. Some of them had even made there way West with the Donner Party. I remember seeing a tombstone with that name as well.

During one Halloween, a group of about five or six of us eight-graders were going to go to the cemetery at night. It wasn't far from where we lived, within walking distance. We were all very confident that nothing would happen. No zombies. No ghosts. No werewolves. And vampires. Psh. They ain't real, I said.

The night was cold as winters seemed to have started much earlier in those days. Daylight savings also ended earlier in the year, which meant that day darkened to night faster than we had liked. We turned right onto the street where the main entrance laid open. The steel gate rarely swung closed, allowing cars to drive up the wide and long gravel pathway and park. Whoever the groundskeeper was didn't do a good job of getting rid of the weeds. Tall weeds grew everywhere adding to the low mist that seemed to hide the many tall and ancient tombstones. We all huddled behind the bravest boy, Alex, at the edge of the gravel.

I was scared. Plain and simple. But we made the adult decision and respected those buried there and headed on home. Of course, we weren't adult enough to not trick-or-treat some more.

Today, the Bay Area had a break from the cold weather. It was sunny, wisps of clouds flavored the sky, the air smelled fresh. It felt like it had been forever since I strolled outside. I'd been stuck inside working, writing inside cafes, hanging out with friends in bars or clubs or restaurants, that the feeling of being outside was calling to me. I decided to haunt one of my old stomping grounds. The Dublin Cemetery.

Driving up that same street, I remarked at how manicured this part of Dublin was. Not too long ago, they had built the Dublin Heritage Park & Museums, which houses a lot of different buildings that help represent what it might have looked like back in the late 1800's to early 1900's when working the land was a viable option.

Instead of the gravel pathway, the front of the cemetery is groomed and paved with a small parking lot. I walk in and notice that new graves have been added, but I assume those who are buried here are somehow connected to this area's past. There are signs around the cemetery the briefly discuss who some of these pioneers were. There are a few unmarked plots.

There was no sense of dread or fear that I remember feeling that fateful night. OK. Nothing happened that night. But even the odd scurrying sounds didn't unnerve me. Squirrels. But the heavy religious nature of the giant tombstones, the words inscribed on them, the old St. Raymond church with the cross cutouts in the wooden window coverings evoke a feeling within me. And I'm reminded of how we can so easily succumb to religion. Especially in those days where the miracles we take for granted today were seen as amazing back then.

As I make my way around the plots, I'm also amazed at how small this cemetery is. Standing at the far back corner, I can see clear to the front where I parked my car. In my dark childhood memory, the cemetery was large, and there were far corners where we had to trek through brush to get to. And I guess this is partly why I'm so fond of my childhood.

Everything then seemed so big and impossible. Things were amazing. I loved eating candy and ice cream. OK. I still do. But I remember taking a bike ride to the local store, which was located next to the cemetery, to buy a piece of candy with a penny was a huge journey. I watched Ghostbusters and Back to the Future five times each in the movie theater. Movie tickets were $2.50 then. I mean, the movies of the 80's are now considered classics. Watchutalkin' about Willis?

Maybe I'm fond of those memories because I'm experiencing my midlife crisis. I had a dream where I dreaded being eighty years old. Though, I've yet to go around yelling at kids to get off my lawn. But that's because I don't have a lawn. "Get off my cement parking spot!"

And I think that's why I don't like going to clubs, or bars, or doing stupid stuff like attending cocktail parties where small talk is the center of conversation. I just want to watch the sun set, watch the moon arch the sky, watch the ocean waves roll in, smell the clean air on slow hikes, spend time connecting with people that I enjoy, or even people watch.

Looking at these graves, I feel time is so fleeting. Ego is useless. What we have to show what we've accomplished is meaningless. For all the good and bad that happen in this world, for all the great people who are remembered and for those who will never even be given a thought, the meaning of life becomes a simple truth. It's the pure joy of living.