This will probably only matter to folks who are fascinated by the visual effects of aging, but whatever.
Back in the late `60s and into the early `70s, my grandparents owned a house out on the East End of Long Island on a leafy byway called Bayfield Lane. From the years of my infancy through to about age 4, or so, my mother, my sister and I spent our summers in the house. Most of my memories of the place are faint and fleeting, largely informed by old photographs, but I do still have some fairly vivid impressions of the place. Its front was ringed with a stately porch, it had what seemed like an endless, green lawn out in front, a small studio behind wherein my grandmother used to paint, and then a big, wooden barn in the very back. That’s myself with my mother and my sister standing in front of the studio. I’m the little twerp in the black sweater.
By the time I was about 4, I suppose, my grandparents ended up selling the place and relocating to a smaller home two towns over. For years and years, the big house at Bayfield Lane lived only in my memory and in the few photos we had of it. At some point during my teens in the early 80s — and I only remember this as it involved my purchase of Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind album, which came out in May of 1983 — I pedaled my bike from Sam’s Record Shack on Main Street to where I thought the old Bayfield Lane house was. By this point, now obscured by a big hedge, I couldn’t really get a proper visual on the place, but I could see the top of the old barn in the back. That’s as close as I thought I’d ever come to seeing it again.
Thirty-five (!!!) years later, my mother befriended a British author in Florida, and invited her to do a reading at the local library, also out on the East End. I’m not quite sure how it came up, but during the course of that discussion, it was gleaned that this author now lives in the big Bayfield Lane house that we’d “summered” in with my grandparents all those decades ago. Mom asked if we could possibly come by and have a look at the place, and she very gamely said yes. So that’s what we did.
As someone who spends a great amount of time here ruminating on the elusive “sense of place” and/or the intangible pangs of hiraeth, the opportunity to re-enter this particular space to re-experience it was a true gift. While there’d been a few cosmetic changes made to the surrounding environs (that’s what happens in the course of four decades), it largely looked more or less how I remembered it. While the author’s family had certainly spruced up various elements of the home, they didn’t radically alter the overall appearance (which sort of defies the current trend, out there). Apart from the tantalizing addition of a beautiful pool in the back (transforming the painting studio into a pool house), it was otherwise like stepping back in time.
My sister and I even tried to replicate an old photo. The wrought iron railings have since been replaced with wood beams.
Here’s me in front of the barn from that top photo.
Every now and then, maybe you can actually go home again.