by Barbara Giordan (Barb and her husband and son attend Grace Covenant Church in Elgin, Illinois)
I originally grew up in a working class neighborhood; tidy little houses painted somber shades of mostly grays and browns. The men worked as policemen, teachers and plumbers. The women stayed home, drank coffee together, chatted on the phone, and minded their kids and houses. We moved to a larger house when I was five years old and I felt like I had left paradise behind.
My best friend, Tara, lived across the street. We spent hours trying to swing from the sweeping branches of a Weeping Willow tree that graced her front yard. Other times, she would crawl behind an over-stuffed brown recliner that faced a picture window in her living room. I would sit on it and ask the chair questions. “What is your favorite color?” What games do you like to play?” Tara would pretend to answer for the chair and I recall feeling as if something magical was happening. Part of me recognized that the chair sounded a lot likeTara, but after a while, it seemed like the chair had become animated.
There were other children that I played with. One girl, named Robin, lived in a house that always smelled musty and dank because her mother kept the windows shut and the blinds drawn tightly. She had a baby brother who would try to soothe himself to sleep by rocking back and forth on his chubby little hands and feet in his baby carriage. Robin would shake the handle of the carriage vigorously when her mom wasn’t looking causing him to stumble and fret. I would watch this torture with a wide-eyed fascination and horror.
I also loved to visit Sammy and play on his smelly old tire swing. His dad would lovingly tend to his garden of Sunflowers and Tomatoes while we swung and sang songs together. Sunflowers have been my favorite flowers ever since.
We moved from this neighborhood when I turned five. I remember my mom perching on the side of my bed one evening, telling me that we would be moving to a new house. She said that it was a bigger house with huge woods beside it and a stream running along side it. It sounded very picturesque and I was excited. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the stream was filled with Skunk Cabbage: a green plant that grew abundantly in swampy areas and smelled like its namesake. The lush woods that I had imagined did exist but it was cut down shortly after we moved in to make room for new homes carbon- copied in shape and color.
A few months after moving, I had a dream that I had never forgotten. I was back on Adley road playing with my old friends. The sky was an Indigo blue and the sun was a fiery yellow. We were laughing and playing in a woods until we stumbled upon a fairy that lived in a hallowed out tree. The fairy was dying, and the magic of Adley Road was fading along with her. In the end, I was weeping and all my friends had suddenly disappeared. I had been haunted by that dream for years and a part of me has tried to recapture that place ever since.
Last year, when I made my annual pilgrimage home, I was flummoxed to realize that the little gray house, which I had enshrined for so long, had been razed to the ground and a new house had been built in its place. I was surprised to realize that it really didn’t bother me. Somewhere along the way, I had realized that the neighborhood that I had built in my mind did not exist, it never had. I found out that the little girl that I had played “Magical Chair” with grew up in a home where her father beat her mother regularly. My friend Robin, who used to torment her brother, had a mom who grappled with severe mental illness. Sammy, the boy who played on the tire swing with me, lost his dad to a heart attack at a very young age. I was too young when I lived onAdley Roadto perceive the brutality, madness and death, but it was there all the same.
Now, instead of looking back, I look forward to a place that is truly paradise. In this Eden, there flows a river bright as Crystal, and a tree that yields healing fruits. It will be day continually as the Lord’s face shines as bright as the sun. There will be no more tears, no more fears, and no deaths to mourn; only an endless time of worship.