I realize why my parents sometimes had that faraway look. It wasn’t really about telling them as much as it was to reminding myself of days gone by.
A few weeks ago, we went for dinner at the Rustic Oak, and although it’s a place we frequent, Logan couldn’t remember which restaurant it is.
“It’s where the old Ponderosa was,” I said.
He gave me a blank look.
Oh, that’s right — he’s eight years-old — he doesn’t remember that. Logan never had the spiced chicken wings, instant mashed potatoes, and chunky brown gravy that I craved all through my pregnancy with Connor.
Shawn jumped into the conversation.
“It’s right next to where Kroger was.”
I shook my head at him — scratch that. Logan has no memory of the place where Dad and I waited in the parking lot, laughing that mom was shopping at the “Roger” because the letter K wasn’t working on their lighted sign.
(And just to add to the hilarity — our basset hound’s name was Roger.)
After Kroger, we would often go next door to the Super X Pharmacy. That’s where I once stood in the rain with my face smashed against the window, dripping wet, and begging someone to let me inside because I finally talked my mom into buying me a package of Kiss Me Lips gloss two minutes after they closed.
That was before the 24-hour Walmart. But, of course, Logan doesn’t know anything about that. Shawn jumped in with another suggestion.
“Ummmm — the Rustic Oak is next to the old Blockbuster Video.”
That sparked a few memories for Connor (born in 2006) but Logan (born in 2009) has absolutely no memory of it. And that did spark something in Connor.
“Oh, yeah! Blockbuster,” he nodded at Logan. “That’s where Dirt Cheap is now.”
After a conversation about the bikini-clad chicken in front of the liquor store, Logan knew where we going — which was the exact same moment we pulled into the shopping center anyway.
We sat there for a second while I pointed out where all these places once where.
“That whole area over there was once Walmart.”
They couldn’t believe it, but my mind’s eye sure did remember. That’s where I first learned to navigate a parking lot and found out pedestrians always have the right of way.
(To the lady I almost hit — if you’re out there — sorry about that. And although it appeared I was chasing you down, I was really just trying to apologize.)
It was also where my friend and I wandered the shopping center on the weekends with ten bucks to last for the entire day. I usually got a fancy new pen, and then we ended the day at Subway where the guy behind the counter knew exactly what we wanted.
“The usual?” He would say.
We giggled and nodded, because we were 14 and he was kind of cute.
It’s strange how Connor and Logan can’t see what I fondly recall as we drive around town. I see a version of reality that they were never part of.
When we go to County Market, and I long for the candy bins at IGA. When we drive by Casey’s on McMasters and I still see Martin’s True Value, and when curving from Mark Twain Avenue to Third Street, I see that old bridge jutting across the river.
It reminds me of driving around town with my parents when Dad used to point out KFC.
“Oh, that’s where Bud’s Golden Cream was.”
Or when Mom reminisced about her nights at the skating rink when passing the run-down building that was next to the Golden Corral, which is where Bank of Hannibal is now.
And as I sat and bored my own kids with the same kind of thing, I realize why my parents sometimes had that faraway look. It wasn’t really about telling them as much as it was to reminding myself of days gone by.
After dinner, we loaded into the car and I noticed the kids’ eyes going straight for the passenger windows, unknowingly soaking up all the scenery that they will one day tell their kids about.
And as we turned onto the highway, Logan pointed to the left of him.
“Hey guys — remember when Arby’s used to Hardees?”
And so it begins.