I recently wrote a post about how nice it would be to have an age feature on Google Maps so writers and other researches could see what streets were around twenty years ago. What I have done with Google Maps is use the street view feature to see how the neighborhoods where I used to live have changed.
I remember most of the addresses of places where I lived after leaving home. I know earlier addresses because my folks always put the family’s address in our Christmas letters. In most cases, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that the houses are still there and that nobody built a tar factory in the vacant lot next door.
After my parents died, we sold the house in Tallahassee (where I grew up) in the 1980s. When I look at it now with street view, I’m horrified to see that the front yard has basiclly been paved ovee with a circular driveway. What an eyesore. Maybe I should write the owners an anonymous letter, “Dear Homeowners, you ignorant sluts, what have you done to the once-beauful front yard?”
In most cases, what I find is more of a natural progression over time of homes going back to when I was in kindergargarten. The trees are larger. Flower beds have been added. Sometimes paint colors have changed. Sometimes the usage has changed. An apartment I lived in in San Francisco has been converted with the other apartments in the building into a residence; the same is true for my aunt’s apartment just up the hill.
I don’t know whether looking at these old places is craziness, nostalgia, or a writer’s typical curiosity. But in looking at the old places, I can sometimes see the notion is correct: one can’t go home again. That’s because subsequent owners have screwed up the place.
One of the short stories in this collection is set in the house where we lived in Tallahassee. There was a large wooded area behind the house. As I grew older, I figured the families who lived there in several houses would eventually sell out and my playground would become a subdivision. In “real life” that’s what happened (as Google Maps shows me). In the short story, the woods are left alone. I like my version of reality better.