Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

Earlier this week, Chris & I found ourselves in a sweet, nostalgic, and almost magical place: a little city called Altadena, where we grew up only a few blocks from each other.


My family moved to Mission Viejo when I was seven,
but prior to that, there was a Golden Age in Altadena-- before I knew about the existence of things like responsibility, public school, track homes, or divorce.
In Altadena, there was sunlight and long walks and crickets singing you to sleep on warm summer nights, big back yards, and castles made of wooden building blocks. I can't think of a memory in Altadena that doesn't involve sunlight... except during Christmas when we visited the Balian Mansion and Christmas Tree Lane.

Now, the Bailian Mansion is like a cross between something out of Elf, and Christmas Vacation, but is every little kid's childhood Christmas dream. It is a big gaudy mansion, absolutely frosted in Christmas lights, with nativity scenes galore, cardboard cut outs of Santa flying with his
reindeer, and church music blaring from a loud speaker. I don't really know how it started, but I know that for at least 30 years now, this wacky family had been building a beacon of light for every Altadenan (literally-- you can feel it's glow for blocks).

Christmas Tree Lane sounds a lot more fantastic than it is-- but it still holds a very special place in my heart. It is simply a street lined with gigantic pine trees that gets clumsily draped with those big, old fashioned Christmas lights every year. But I can remember driving up Christmas Tree Lane, holding my breath and looking above in silence at the hypnotic lights as far as the eye could see. The street is almost completely dark except for the Christmas lights, and even now, it has a mystical, trippy sort of effect as you drive through it.


Not only did Chris & I get to drive up Christmas Tree Lane and stroll around the Bailian Mansion (places he visited as a child, as well), but we also saw my old house.

From the front, it was a small, yellow, one story house with a white picket fence and a huge tree out front. That tree would change colors in the Fall, and I would run and jump in the piles of leaves as my parents raked them up.

If you followed the drive way down the side of the house, you passed 4 huge avocado trees that always had fruit (something very special for a Guatemalan before black beans & avocados were trendy). The driveway continued down behind the house, revealing a wide back yard, with lemon, orange, apple, and plum trees, and well as a sunken vegetable garden where we once grew a sunflower that was taller than me, sitting on my Dad's shoulders. There was also a half-court with a basketball hoop, impossibly tall for my little arms, where many a piƱata lost it's life during Birthday parties.

The best part of the house, though, was the Breakfast Nook, and I capitalize it because... well, it should be capitalized. The Breakfast Nook was an octagonal room, made almost completely of windows that jutted out from the back of the house, looking out into the yard, and (as I remember) a view of the whole world. That room was sunshine, with a glass table and white chairs where we would eat, and window sills that we coaxed blue jays onto with peanuts and watched them hop around, unafraid.

To me, that house holds all the Good things that childhood should be about. And I am glad that we moved before awkwardness, adolescence, divorce, and brokenness set in to my little mind. It is a beautiful and powerful thing for Innocence and Freedom from Worry to have an address. Even if I can't go inside anymore, I am glad that every now and then, I can drive past it and say hello.

3 comments:

Mom said...
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Myra said...
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Baby Blog ++ said...

I found you through your comment on EmilyStyle. I really like your writing. This was a touching entry that I think alot of people can relate to.