From my earliest memories I was told about the “Kroeger Street” house. My parents reminded me of the big sycamore tree with a tire swing and our dog, Friday. I remember as an older child hearing it and barely remembering. Now I remember the street all too well from all the telling. I spent the first 4 years of my life there. In the pictures they showed me it had a white picket fence and a white wooden look to it. It must have been built before the days of “stucco” because it was all wood. It had a front porch and as I said a tire swing attached to a large sycamore tree visible from the street on the side. It was a place an open mind would come from.
They told me of another boy I used to play with next door. They told me of Mrs. Fitz. Apparently her last name was longer . . . Fitzpatrick or something, but so the kids could say it, they called her Mrs. “Fitz.” She was elderly and in a wheelchair but whenever we would go over and knock on her screen door she would say: “Well hello, here comes Damien!” and give us warm apple turnovers. We would sit and listen to her tell us stories. That part I remember vividly. My brother is 14 months younger than me so I doubt he remembers Kroeger street more than I do. Nonetheless, we have 8 millimeter film footage of he and I in the grass with the cat and dog. My mom looks so young, it’s really amazing to see those pictures now. My dad always had a Freud-like beard. He was wild and wacky in those days (and you see it in the film). He’d throw me up in the air and put my face right in the camera lens. He was, and still is, so proud of his family and kids.
When I would close my eyes and envision Kroeger street I’d see gutter flowers, grass growing through sidewalk cracks, the house as they told it to me, and of course the people they told me loved me while we lived there. One day at the age of 26, I decided to go back! I rode my bike past the house, since I was going to college close by working on my graduate degree in English. It was all boarded up and Mrs. Fitz’s house had been razed. The fence sign around it read “Starbucks coming soon!” I suppose in a way that is all too fitting. I think they serve apple turnovers don’t they? Even so, I doubt any barista would call to me from the screen door.
It’s amazing how we as humans can attach so much meaning and soul to simple places. The soul is eternal, but places come and go. They are not static, yet they are inseparable. As I looked at the old Kroeger house I could see the tire swing was gone. The huge branches and leaves of the tree had been sawed off. It was just a trunk now with the cut areas spray painted over to prevent healing and regrowth. There were no animals, no children, no families of any kind. The street is a short street, and it appeared many houses were also boarded and up for sale. I wished I could walk in the front door to see if some memory would come back. A smell, and sight, a vibration of the wind through the house . . . something that might take me back to those wonder years I have seen and heard too much about.
The rosebushes in front of Kroeger street have long faded, I treasure their memory and that’s why I’m writing them here now. Down the road, I’ll be telling my kids how it was . . . on our mystical sequel to the long gone Kroeger Street.