Upward and forward.

March 28, 2011

This afternoon, after work, instead of turning left on Tully to go home, I decided to keep driving straight.  I wanted to see the past that so haunted my present, the past that fed so many present fears and heartaches.

Passed my old elementary school.  Still had the hewn stone walls, painted over with thick globs of ivory.  Still had the forest green doors and pine trees by the classrooms.  With a passing glance, I noted the blacktop where we played tetherball and tag, the field where we played kickball, and the dirt hillside where a friend and I used to slosh mud around with sticks to “make soup.”  Passed the house that was just a cement foundation those many years ago.  Now, fully built.  Now, occupied.  Now, a bit weathered.  (Like me, haha.)  Passed by my old court, saw the cul-de-sac where we played ’til nightfall with our friends.  Caught a glimpse of our old two-story home.  Passed the school I attended for 5th and 6th grade, then the school I attended for 7th and 8th grade.

Then suddenly decided to see if I could retrace the way to my old church.  The church where I grew up ’til I was almost 14.  The church where I first heard the gospel.  The church where my whole life prior to 14 was rooted.  The church — not just the building but her people — where so much of my mind still wanders, still remembers, still hurts.  The last time I was there as a middle schooler, I wrote a letter to a friend saying I would have nothing to do with God until I returned.

I rounded the corner and passed the 7-11 where my mom would take my brother, Eddie, Jamie, and me after church on Sundays.  We’d all get different colored slurpees (Coke slurpee was my favorite) and show our tongues to each other.

Passed the elementary school I attended one summer.  I begged my mom to sign me up for summer school so I could play tetherball during recess.

Wasn’t sure where to go from there, but saw the familiar juncture.  Three ways to go.  Left toward Story Road and the freeway, straight into a street with homes, or right, up a hill?  Right, up the hill.  Still had the faded, straw-colored grass.  Kind of strange, but my heart would ache a little as I recalled these old, familiar places.  Not with pain though.  Just the ache of familiarity.

Passed the Jehovah’s Witness Temple.  Wasn’t sure where to go again, but followed familiar scenery.  Smiled as I remembered old street names, names I would make up stories for: Machado, Whipple, Neves.  Whipple was a silver-grey horse.  Neves was a skinny, stuffy-nosed boy with Coke-bottom glasses.  :]

Passed the neighborhood where my dad’s van got a flat tire once.  My dad took our dog, told us not to come out of the car until he returned, and walked back to the church to get help (pre-cell phone days).  My brother began panicking once my dad was out of sight, stuck his head out the door, and yelled, “HELP!  HELP!”  Help came.  And took us to their home.  Gave us popsicles and let us play in their front yard.  My dad finally found us after having searched for us for two hours.  Wasn’t funny then but sure is funny now, especially when my brother tells the story.

Drove a little further, noted that a new park was put in, expected to see the church any second now, and came to the intersection of Fleming and Alum Rock.  Wait … Alum Rock?  That’s not right.  Did I miss the church? Turned around and drove back slowly, searching.  And it slowly dawned on me.

It wasn’t there anymore.

No more metal chicken wire gate.  No more “Antioch Baptist Church” sign with the Home Depot flowers planted underneath.  No more Sunday School rooms.  No more youth room with green chalkboards.  No more kitchen and dining area where we ate lunch every Sunday and claimed our VBS prizes.  No more sanctuary with its brown pews, where I learned to pray with head bowed and elbows resting on my knees.  No more basketball court where we’d play and losers would have to buy ice cream.  No more portables with cobwebs everywhere.  No more grassy hill where we played Red Rover and had campfires.  No more shaded hallways.  No more grapevines.

Gone.  Like yesterday.  All of it.

Except my response.  That’s still left.  Inward and backward, or forward and upward?

By the grace of God, the latter.


9 Responses to “Upward and forward.”

  1. Jordan Says:

    Dang, this really hits me. I take a similar tour of my home town every couple years. I don’t think there has yet been a time when I didn’t cry, mourning over a lost past that, if I’m honest, part of me would return to if I could. Forward and upward? _Only_ by God’s grace…

  2. Michael Chung Says:

    Ah that was beautiful! Thoroughly enjoyed this entry

  3. tia Says:

    jordan, thanks for your comment. next time i’ve over at willow glen, let’s chat. press on, hermano.

    mike, still waiting for your blog debut …

  4. Christy P Says:

    You have a beautiful heart, my friend. Please keep sharing it. 🙂

    Oh, and I think “Neves” is a perfect name for a skinny, stuffy nose boy with coke-bottle glasses. 🙂

  5. stephyu Says:

    loved this entry tia, it made me cry sad/happy tears.

  6. tia Says:

    chrissy and steps, ❤ ❤

  7. bom amigo Says:

    I’ll meet you at Story and Clayton, you know which way we’ll go from there..

  8. […] of my past.  And I couldn’t stop the tears.  He took the post I had written in March, Upward and forward, and followed its description from my work, to my old schools, to my childhood home, to my old […]

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