Douglas McIntire

Douglas McIntire

So much has changed over the years, it’s easy to become jaded and lament your “lost” childhood. Sometimes however, if you just stop to look around, you might find others have picked up where you left off.

Growing up on Columbia Avenue in Navy housing, there was a tree between my house and the neighbors. It was a little white pine sapling — so small and weak, public works had to support it with wires to keep it from bending in the wind.

There are vivid memories attached to that place, with the baseball diamond in the back yard where neighborhood kids would regularly gravitate for a quick pick-up game. It was where I flew my first kite and stalked my friends in the tall summer grass with my dad’s Navy flashlight with the red lens in it.

It’s all gone now — tossed into the scrap heap of an aging memory to rust itself into ruin. Well, maybe not.

I was talking to a student recently who also has fond childhood memories of what turns out to be not my, but our old street.

I began, as I often do, giving him a confirmed case of the willies — stage four, by telling him about the house that appeared to be haunted by the spirit of a child who died in a fire next door. This young man thought it was his house, prompting further conversation about the old neighborhood.

It appears we have the same recollection of the baseball field, still taking stragglers for impromptu ball games some four decades later.

We talked about sledding at the sand pits. I told him of how I checked Google Earth and there didn’t seem to be a trace of it — something he assured me was incorrect. He slid there himself as a little kid — making the decades-old trek through the woods to the site with long slopes and a jump on one side.

The other side, I told him, had a couple far more perilous runs, flanked by trees. Stories circulated around housing of how the fire department had to make numerous trips out to the steep side to recover broken sledders. He told me after so many injured kids, someone finally fenced off that portion of the hill — probably about the same time the public started taking concussions seriously.

We talked about what the neighborhood kids used to refer to as Pollywog Pond — a widened gully where runoff made a pond of varying size depending on rainfall. Still, it was the place to be for gathering pollywogs and tadpoles in the early summer.

I told him how the entire “stream” leading there was flanked by skunk cabbage, which my olfactory impaired friend would beat mercilessly with a stick to watch me gag on the stench.

It was reported that kids still catch frogs in the swampy area off Baribeau Drive because, even in the screen age, what kid doesn’t appreciate a frog?

I was encouraged this student and I have shared so much of a childhood I cherished — even walking and running in the same footsteps many decades apart.

That little pine tree? Well, needless to say, it’s not little anymore, but while in my time, it barely cleared my seven-year-old frame, this same young man I talked with played in its shade.

Douglas McIntire is a teacher and writer in the Midcoast and occasionally still flies cheap, plastic kites in his childhood back yard — much to the homeowner’s distress. He can be reached at [email protected]

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