There is something oddly profound, standing in the cemetery of the town you grew up in, but no longer live in.
I grew up in a place called Arvada, a burb nestled between Denver and Golden, Colorado. It was the quintessential American town in the 60’s and 70’s: mostly middle-class with a few pockets of low-income folks here and there. There were few minorities, so few in fact, I could count the total number, in my neighborhood, on one hand. People were from places like Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, or God forbid, Texas. There were a few Jews and Catholics mixed in among the many protestants. Most people went to church. The civic warfare that either galvanized or tore apart the country, be it Vietnam, hippies, drugs, or Watergate had little noticeable effect on our comings and goings. They were things we talked about at school and watched on the news, but there were no riots or protests of any substance that I can remember.
Which raises the specter of what I do remember.
My parents divorced in 1971. My childhood is, by my reckoning, divided into the time before and the time after, and my memories of Arvada are influenced by that. Divorce in the idyllic burbs was an anomaly at that time, visited upon the few and far between. I went from being just a kid to being that kid, the kid whose parents had divorced. Money became very tight; the good times as I understood them, as were presented to me on the boob-tube, were over. And believe it or not, there were homes I was no longer welcome in, homes I’d been in many times before. The irony is many of those very people ended up divorced. But at the time, it had a profound effect on me. And because of that, I occasionally wandered. And where I wandered, was the Arvada of that time.
To wander now is its own Ichabod Crane moment. The place is much the same while much is different. The touchstones of my youth are gone, some long gone. No more 3.2 beer from Triangle Liquors. No more movies at the Arvada Plaza. Speaking of the Plaza, no more books, no more models, or shoes, or purple paint from the model store for the soles of the shoes we wore in the marching band.
Now it’s a Walmart.
No more looping over to Independence to get to Kipling to get to I-70. It’s a straight shot now. The Turtle bowl, a grassy wash of a hill to the north of the cemetery, a place where we rode bikes and took our sleds is now a series of playfields for baseball, softball, and soccer. No more spending the summer at the public pool with the high dive and the hot concrete on which to dry and warm up on.
The pool is gone.
My sister still lives in the house we grew up in. It’s still across from the elementary school we went to. The junior high, though it may now be a middle school, is still up the hill off Ward Ave. Arvada West HS is where it was when I went to high school, but the school I went to was torn down and replaced with a new building.
I have a brick from the old one.
Still, the roads remain, and with some prompting, I remember the many ways to get around. The neighborhoods remain the same, the same streets and the same houses. The trees have grown as much as the Colorado weather will let them. The metropolis stretches much farther in all directions, yet the Rockies remain dominant to the west as do the Great Plains to the east.
Always and forever.
I thought about that. Arvada is more than a 100 years old. No doubt there was someone in these very shoes, or am I in his, marveling at how it had changed in the first 50 years, while I was just a kid racing around on my bicycle wearing little more than a pair of shorts made out of old jeans.
My last trip back brought me to the cemetery, which is most likely the quietest place in Arvada and has the best view to the north. I hesitate to look for people I might have known, and wonder at the names of those who were here when a trip to Denver took more than 20 minutes on the interstate, and no, I’m not including rush hour.
On a previous trip back, I spent the day cruising the old through-ways of Denver, Colfax, Federal, 6th Ave, Kipling. Golden to Aurora. Northglenn to Littleton. I don’t know what I was looking for, if anything. I was basically sightseeing in a town I knew but didn’t really recognize.
But that’s ok because no one recognized me.
©2019 David William Pearce