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May 20, 2005 - Friday, 10:13 p.m.
Camille and I had decided that THIS time we were going to take the time and go through Anoka. She hadn’t been there since she was 17 and I was in my 20’s the last time I was there. We were on the road from Hunter by about 8 am and headed south. We called Diane, who now lives in the house alone. Her kids have grown up and she and her husband are divorced. We left a message and I figured we’d missed her. I asked her to call and that we’d wander around the yard some. I wanted her to at least know we’d been there roaming around. We didn’t hear from her and decided we’d just look at the house from the outside if that was all we could do.
We arrived in Anoka around noon time, pulling up in front of the house. The neighborhood was quiet and not many people were around as it was a Friday. The house looked very much the same and we wandered down the driveway towards the backyard. As we went by the side door, we notice a note. Diane welcomed us and told us that she’d left the door unlocked and that we were welcome to go in and walk around and that she was sorry she missed us (she was at work). She asked us to give her a call and lock the door when we left. Wow!! How sweet was that?! We wandered around outside first. It was an eerie feeling. So completely familiar and yet... not. The pines behind the garage were still tall, but looked old and spent. Ah… right there is where the sandbox was, and there the way we walked to school each day. It had been about 15-18 years since I was last in Anoka.
Walking into the house was unbelievable. It had been 30 years. The last time I was in that house we were leaving to move to Colorado. I walked in and it was just like it was OUR house. I wanted to touch EVERYTHING, and memories flooded my mind. So much… so very much. I would touch a wall almost reverently thinking, “I remember when Dad built this…” It was almost a sensory overload. I wanted to cry. We walked out of the kitchen into the dining room. Gah!! The heater grate was still on the wall where I used to come and sit in the morning, tucking the bottom of the nightgown over the top of the register and letting the heat warm me up. The rooms were so small, the house was small. Every room I walked into made me want to cry more. There was my Dad carrying us up the stares, or a door way I used to climb up, at one time or another I slept in every bedroom upstairs. It was like the house was full of ghosts. I could hardly take it in. Last of all we went to the basement. I wanted to be 10 again. I loved living in that house. That’s where I learned to love the smell of sawdust and coffee. Life was an adventure and home in that house was the safest spot on the entire planet. I wanted to remember every moment of those 10 years we lived there. It was a wonderful visit, probably made even more special because it was just the three of us there. We walked around… “Remember when…” over and over again. We each wrote a quick note to her thanking her for allowing us to come into her home. I closed the door and lock it, wondering if I’d ever stand there again… and realizing that once my father is gone that house will make me weep to be inside it.
We droved around to the edges of our childhood world, realizing that beyond certain points in town was nothingness in our memories. We drove around our old elementary school, and as we nearly circled it I pulled into the parking lot. School was in session, we’d be able to go inside and we did. The school hasn’t really changed in the 30 years we’d been gone. We went to the principal’s office to let them know we were in the school and that we just wanted to walk around a little as we’d gone to school there 30 years ago. The principal offered us a tour and we took her up on it, walking a little more down memory lane.
After the elementary school we drove downtown and parked. We walked around town a little, eventually going into a bookstore across the street from where it was when I lived there. I asked them how long they’d been there, she said since the 70’s. I asked where they’d been before that and she said across the street under the jewelry store. BINGO!! It was the same bookstore. As a child I’d bought about 3 or 4 hard back copies of “Mrs. Mike” at that store. I couldn’t hekp myself, I looked for it again, and there was another copy on the shelf. I bought it. We wandered into a local sporting goods store and I bought an “Anoka Tornados” hoody (sweatshirt), the Anoka High School team.
Up by the Junior High school and then by the swimming pool we went. Once more by the house and then headed for home. It was a sweet visit, though it left me feeling sad and weepy. Living in that town, those few years, seems to have had a huge impact on my life. I feel like I grew up there… and I guess I did.