Potato Fields

The ex-potato field felt empty but not desolate—lot stakes, light posts, and the bafflingly windy streets of modern suburbia were all in place. Ours was the second house in Brighton’s Landing, a development in what would soon become one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. I knew none of this context, nor would it have refined my picture of my place in the world—like any child, my life was defined by low walls and narrow vistas. But I did know we were moving, here, to this new house. I gazed up into the vaulted entryway, looked down at the unstained ornaments for the front window. My memories of this construction phase are spotty, but I know we visited regularly during dim fall evenings. I remember little from the days we moved, but the vast expanse of fresh carpet lodged in my brain. Perhaps because I was six years old and still close the ground. That was 1991, over 20 years ago.

I believe I have one very special memory, though. I say “believe”, because this is one of those memories where you can’t tell if your brain fabricated it for you while listening to the retelling of the event, or if it is authentic. I maintain a fervent hope this memory is no interloper into the vessel of memory: my sister and I are in a car, and the overwhelming emotion is “safe”. It’s in the air. I can’t tell you the model of the car or the time of day, but this emotion I recall more than anything. My grandma is there. Safe. We are outside the old house, and we say “goodbye house.” And then, we leave. This is exactly how one wants to feel before going on a journey, before moving, before beginning something new. Safe and loved and whole, surrounded by this vibrant, palpable love.

That house to which we moved, the one in which my parents still live, sits at the top of four circular terraces, descending the height of an 80 story building down to a lake. During that first winter, we could grab a sled and cut a clean line through what would soon become dozens of houses and yards and fences. All there was was white; no landmarks, no chimneys, just white and the deafening silence of snowy land. Our sleds were blue with yellow handles and we rushed to buy a fake christmas tree in the last days before the holiday. In the summer, we played on a giant dirt pile from the excavation of a neighbor’s foundation, skidded our bikes in circles in the gravel at the end of the new street, admired the green of our new sod next to the brown that surrounded us. This situation became a defining dichotomy of my childhood—the shelter that comes from the prosperity and optimism of flourishing suburbia juxtaposed to the timeless freedom that stems from roaming pastoral countryside.

So, 20 years. I come to this realization by way of a roof—that house I grew up in got a new roof yesterday. Another 20-year roof. And sitting there, talking with my mom, I did the mental math. I’ll be 47 years old when that house needs a roof once more. Somehow, making this calculation pushed the cold indifference of time right into my face, and it set me back on my heels. Can that be right? I’ll be almost 50 when this place needs a roof again?

At some point before I started college, I stopped living in the moment. I can glorify the memory, but I fail to enjoy making it. My writing falls short of imparting how I feel, but I’ll keep practicing, practicing the introspection needed to improve oneself. Now, I no longer want to improve just for the sake of improving, but instead with a hope that I can tune myself to the present.

Brief Notes Nearby