Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Life in Four Colors (Part Forty-One)

It's amazing how compact our world is when we're young.

I've mentioned a variety of important places in my life in prior installments of A Life in Four Colors. As I got to thinking about those places, I realized how close to one another they were. That's probably normal; when we're kids, our world is pretty much limited by how far we can walk or ride a bicycle. Anything further than that requires that our parents take us somewhere, and that often requires planning.

Today I began plotting many of those locations on a map of West Rome (not even a complete map of West Rome, mind you—it only covers the distance from West Rome High School in the west to Division Street in the east), and I realized that I could walk from one side of my everyday childhood world to another in about a half-hour or so, if I didn't stop for snacks or comic books.

 The map that I'm sharing here doesn't depict a reality that ever existed. That is, there was never a time when all of these people and places occupied this space on the map at the same time.  There wasn't a Village Inn or a Pizza Inn when I first became friends with Phil Patterson, or with John Ball, or even at the beginning of my friendship with Gary Steele. Sven Ahlstrom didn't move to Rome until 1969, I believe. John Ball obviously didn't live in his first house and his second house at the same time. House of 10,000 Frames, where I worked while in college, didn't exist until 1971, and Mr. & Mrs. Peacock didn't move it to its second location until 1973.  I mention this because a map of this sort can only delineate place, not time. Each of these places on the map was destined to become important to me at some point in my life, which is why I include them.

Many of these places don't exist at all today. Everything changes. Sometimes the changes come fast, sometimes they're so slow that you don't realize that it's all different until you stop and ask yourself, "What happened? How did it change so much?"  None of the friends live in those houses any longer. In some cases, the houses don't even exist any longer. My school is gone, most of the businesses are gone and replaced by something else. "It seems like my past is running away from me," I wrote once, and my Mom quoted that  in the most poignant Christmas gift she ever gave me: a meticulously prepared scrapbook of my early life, put together to help me to hold on to my past. I was given that gift on Christmas 2002... ten days after Mom died. It was her final loving statement to me, reminding me just who I am and how I got here.

And at some point in the near future, I'll have to create a second map, this one of Broad Street, to show the other places that meant so much to me when I was a child and a teenager—places like Coosa Valley Bookshop, the Rome News-Tribune office, Liberty Hatworks & Newsstand, Reader's Den, Wyatt's, Norwood-Griffin, and more. Only one of them exists today, and its in a different location... and is a very different place than it was before.

Everything changes.

Each chapter of A Life in Four Colors is an attempt to pin down a specific four-dimensional point in my life, I guess. Not only is it important where I was, but it's equally important when I was. Change the place or the time, and my life might have been radically different. But the places and the times converged in just the right way, and thus the myriad events of my life unfolded.

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