Broke into the old apartment.
This is where we used to live
- Barenaked Ladies
So I made one last trip to the house I grew up in today for one final box of diplomas and certificates. The house where I went to sleep nearly every day from coming home from the hospital in 1980 through leaving for college in 1998, the house where I spent summers and winters during college before finally moving out for good senior year of college in 2001, the house where I fell asleep listening to Jon Miller broadcast Orioles games on WTOP 1500 AM and Ken Beatrice on Sportscall on WMAL 630 AM, and the house where I learned to play and love sports. The house where my trophies (mostly participation) lined the desk, where my baseball cards filled boxes and binders in the basement, and where where the Baltimore Orioles and Florida Marlins pennants were on the bedroom wall. The trophies and pennants have all gone to the dump. The swim ribbons are being held on to, as are the baseball cards.
My parents have moved to a beautiful new community in northern Howard County, on a golf course, full of people in their upper 50s, where every weekend there is a wine and cheese party or a pool party or something fun going on. My parents are fleeing the confines of Eastern Montgomery County, and a neighborhood that isn't our own anymore. A neighborhood where all of the neighbors I grew up alongside have long gone, aside from a few stalwarts who bought when the homes where new in the mid-1960s and who will likely die there. Yet a neighborhood, and a home, that for whatever happens, will still be the place that I grew up, and the place where my memories linger.
This post will be for all of our readers, who, while happy for their parents for moving on to bigger and better places, experience the melancholy of knowing they won't play catch with their own kids in the same driveway where they themselves played catch. This post will be for all of our readers who have had to say goodbye to something that's really only a very small piece of land, not even a third of an acre, but that looms larger than life in our own minds.
But this post will also be for the new occupants of that home, even though I know that they will never read this. The home will be occupied by a mother, a father, and their three children (2 boys and a girl), who are moving into their first-ever single family home, with their first-ever yard. I think as a going away gift to Lemontree, and as a welcoming gift to the soon-to-be-occupants who by this time next weekend will live there, I should give them the ground rules of Lemontree, gleaned from 21 years of experience of tee-ball, whiffle ball, baseball, basketball, street hockey, ping-pong, football, sledding, tennis, and everything else.
- If you're standing on this side of the yard (see above), and it clears the fence, it's a ground rule double. It has to make it past the patio next door for it to be a home run.
- If it goes over the fence to the right, the neighbors still probably haven't mellowed out about you invading their yard for a ball. Just wait until they mow their lawn and the next day you'll find all your baseballs, tennis balls, and everything else, lining the ground at the foot of the fence.
- If you're playing catch in the driveway, make sure that the taller person stands at the garage door. And know that the garage door is stronger than it looks... it's taken baseballs off a bat and still hasn't cracked.
- Oddly, that same garage door makes really loud echoes throughout the entire house when you try to hit a tennis ball off it. So save the groundstroke practice for the wall at West Fairland Park.
- That fence in the backyard... it won't even survive a hard hit from a tennis ball, let alone a baseball. Unless you want a shard of wood roughly as sharp as a prison shiv, avoid hitting that fence with anything other than a whiffle ball.
- If your dad is throwing you pop flies across the street, the ball has to clear the third power line for it to be a "real pop fly." Anything lower and you reserve the right to yell at him to throw it higher.
- Standing at the top of the driveway and having your dad go into a catcher's stance in the middle of the street will approximate the feel of being on a pitcher's mound. But remember, your dad isn't wearing a cup.
- Any ball that goes into the street will inevitably roll down towards the sewer if you don't take off after it. You have about 20 seconds after it hits the street to catch up to it. But that ball gains speed as it gets closer to the sewer, so watch out.
- When you play ping-pong in the basement (you can thank us for leaving the table later), if the ball goes behind the washing machine, don't even bother trying to get it. Just grab a new one. Someday you'll replace that washing machine and find 19 years worth of ping-pong balls there.
- When you feel the need to imitate Art Monk (although by now you'll probably be imitating Santana Moss), make sure that you stand up the street and your dad stands down the street. Otherwise you'll run that fade pattern and be blinded by the sun.
- Come winter when you want to go sledding on the biggest, baddest hill in all of Eastern Montgomery County, make sure that you get a sled with steering on it and don't just go down on one of those tobaggan-type things. If you don't make the 15-degree righthand turn, you will drop straight down 10 feet into the dry creek bed. I've seen it happen.
- Come winter also, you can only hope you get the same ice storm that we had in 1993 when two inches of freezing rain made the entire front yard like an ice rink (the ice was actually over the grass and clear, just like rink ice). This will be fun for you and your street hockey stick and your puck. It will not be fun for your dog.
- The record for fastest trip around "the square" aboard a bike is just under four minutes, done by yours truly, on a single-speed Huffy. I don't think you'll beat that. The gauntlet has been thrown down.
- When you're standing on the patio, know that there did used to be a nine foot basketball hoop at the edge furthest out from the door. If you stood at the fence and shot it, that was a three-pointer. If you really wanted to imitate M.J., you'd do a fadeaway and fall backwards into the rhododendron bush.
Broke into the old apartment
Tore the phone out of the wall
Only memories, fading memories
Blending into dull tableaux
I want them back
So what are some of the groundrules for where you grew up? Everybody has them. You'll be amazed how quickly they come back to you.