Friday, July 7, 2017


Again, this is an article I wrote for our community magazine. It was published in the July issue, and I have had a few compliments on it. It was a bit of a challenge to write - to remember all the places I passed in my city neighborhood in Richmond Hill, New York, and to find the words to describe the sounds and smells. I did leave out the ice cream parlor - Adele's. Adele's was the closest store to where I lived, and though I have fond memories, especially of their creating a chocolate-covered ice pop in whatever three flavors struck my fancy that day, I completely forgot to put it on my tour. Shows you how the senior mind works - or doesn't work, as the case may be.

Googled "ice cream parlor" and found this picture that reminds me of Adele's,
though for some reason I remember it being darker.

The map of Sun City Carolina Lakes is a curvy one. Many of us raised in the rectangular grids of the cities of the north find ourselves mystified as to the compass direction of our friends’ homes: “Well, they live over there somewhere.”

Louise Penny, in her latest novel, A Great Reckoning, writes about a cartographer who made exceptionally beautiful maps, especially local ones, and “recognized the connection people have to where they live. That it isn’t just the land: our history, our cuisine, our stories and our songs spring from where we live.”    

Searching for an illustration of some kind to show a beautiful map, I came upon this.
That's what the maps in our heads do - they come to life.

Most of us maintain a connection to where we’ve lived, especially during our school days, and in our memories we have maps that we take with us for life. They don’t necessarily match those of MapQuest or Google Earth. We keep our own maps of the route to school, the playing fields and parks, to a friend’s house, to the shops and train station, or to Grandma’s house. We can walk there in our memories and smell the aromas, stop off for a brief look-see, and hear the sounds along the way. The sound of a lawn mower and the perfume of lilacs or honeysuckle in a neighbor’s suburban yard are sweet memories. We walk past the Italian restaurant with sauce simmering and dishes clinking, past the bakery with the fresh-baked bread, on to savor the smell from the grills at the burger or bar-b-q place and the sound of the juke box. A sniff as we pass the open door of the hardware store gives us the tang of construction nails and the stink of garden fertilizer. Our memories smell the nose-crinkling, boozy breath of the liquor and beer soaked into the carpet at the corner bar. We hear the clang of metal on metal at the local garage, and hear the screech of breaks on wheels as we pass the train station. The smell of cloth and the hiss of steam at the cleaners, and the clove and Vitamin B-aroma of the pharmacy are immediately recognizable.

This looks a lot nicer than what I remember of the
corner bar in our neighborhood.

The beautiful thing about on-line maps today is that not only can we get directions and plot a route, we can also get a bird’s eye view of almost anywhere. We can take armchair visits to places we wish we’d have visited – Venice anyone? – and we can hover over the neighborhoods where we grew up or where we raised our families. We can see the changes. We can even get familiar with the streets in our own SCCL community.

You are where?

But you don’t need to go on line to visit the maps in your head. Take a break, get comfortable. Close your eyes and think about all the different things that happened there. Where are you? Let your mind roam outward from your daily self and think of the things – mundane or marvelous, but only the good things – that happened there. Keep the neighborhood around you for the rest of the day.

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