This past weekend my family, including my parents and sisters, went to Geneva, NY for the day. My dad grew up in Geneva and even though it is only about an hour from home, we had never spent the day there all together seeing the various places of significance in my dad's childhood. We kept referring to Geneva as my dad's old "stomping grounds", which was humorous and fitting for me, mainly because my dad is not a small guy (6'5) and he is not exactly what you would call fleet of foot. In fact, God love him, my dad is probably the noisiest walker I know. I can still hear the rapid, booming thump-thump of his dress shoes down the front hall when he came in from work each evening. Or what sounded like a rock-slide when he ran down the stairs.
We all have the sounds of our childhood. Mine included my mom screaming at the TV during Syracuse Basketball games, the echos of which weaved all through the house and curled up the stairs to my bedroom while I drifted off to sleep. Who needs a lullaby when you have that? And who needs an alarm clock with you have a an entire men's varsity rugby team and the cast of "Stomp" going up and down the stairs outside your bedroom. As an added bonus, my has a habit of leaving his shoes everywhere. His size 14 shoes. In the most random and hazardous spots. I don't even know how many times one of us has tripped over his shoes growing up. Conservatively I would say, at least 12 million times, because that seems both accurate and fair. Somethings don't change because now my kids will regularly collide with one of his giant sneakers and go flailing. My sisters and I are eternally indebted to his hazardous shoe placement because without having to stick those landings we would never have grown into the graceful, coordinated women we are today... So yes, the idea of his former stomping grounds made me laugh to myself, because I can just picture my dad as a kid and teenager tromping all around the streets of Geneva, leaving giant footprints (and shoes) wherever he went.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day. We walked all afternoon as my dad pointed out the landmarks of his life. The house he grew up in, with his bedroom window in the top left-hand corner. The front door is a different color now. The rectory he moved into when his dad became the head priest at the Episcopal church in town. That house was his favorite. It was big, like a maze, perfect for exploring. And his best friend Billy Summer's house, right across the street. We saw "Dead Man's Hill": the story behind one of his scars, where he went sledding head first into a guard rail. The florist shop where one holiday when he was in elementary school he bought his mother a cardboard flower. My dad had saved up his money but couldn't afford a real flower. Timidly he offered up what he thought was a meager gift to his mother, my grandmother, and to his delight she pinned it right onto her fancy dress and showed it off to everyone at their high society holiday party. The college where his dad taught. The frat house my dad lived in when we attended the same college. The store his mom used to shop at for knick-knacks. And the grassy area overlooking Seneca Lake where he first learned to hit a baseball.
It was strange and pleasant to put a "face" to all these places, from all these stories I had heard. I had never envisioned Dead Man's hill to be snack dab in the middle of some cheery 19th century row houses. The church was ornate and grand, one of those old grey stone main street churches I would have commented on if we had driven by on any other Sunday afternoon drive. As he spoke telling a story about being woken up by the sound of car accident below, I could almost see his five-year old face peering out the window under the street lights.
When we came home and in the days afterward I have felt a restless feeling in me. It's nothing new, really. Often times I find myself wrestling with some event or circumstance, searching for a metaphor. I scrolled through pictures from our day looking for some lesson to come from the day, some inspiration. I toured over the the streets of Geneva again in my mind. What symbol held deeper, spiritual meaning? You might think it's a little strange at best, and down right pathetic at worse. And you'd totally be right. I'm just a girl with a weakness for symbolism and deeper meaning. A good metaphor is my Kriptonite. Along with apple crisp.