My childhood ended a long time ago, chronologically. But since I still live close to where it all took place, I can drive up Providence Road and see the firehouse where I spent so much time, the little store that's now closed and is part of an assisted living home, the houses with the giant front yards where we played ball, and the holiday fun. Ours was the little town where Santa Claus rode around on top of the fire engine on Christmas Eve (he still does!), where we raked autumn leaves into smoky piles, where we put baseball cards in the spokes of our bikes to make a sort of engine sound, where the ladies made caramel apples and popcorn balls for the kids on Halloween, and where the same bunch of us started in first grade and stuck together for twelve years of schoolin'.
I feel like I have the best of both worlds because I have those memories AND I have this computer, which connects me with a lot of the wonderful people, places and things of the good old days. Here is something really cool: One of the girls I grew up with became a standup comic and playwright and novelist, and the tales she weaves have threads of real life and real people from my golden childhood.
Her name is Rootie Simms, and I just read and enjoyed her latest: "The Last Great Halloween" (Wilder Things Publishing, available on Amazon.) This is her third book, following 2012's "Wilder in the Everglades (Volume 1)" and last year's "My Childhood Christmas: Christmas 1959, When Only the Strongest Kids Survived!" Rootie's alter ego in these books is the lead character, Trudy McFarlan, and this book finds Trudy planning her Halloween party, and her costume, at that poignant moment we all had when we found ourselves with one shoe in childhood and one in the adult world. She wants to dress up for Halloween and have a great party, and she wants to date a guy from the neighborhood, too. And check out page 21 in the book. I was invited to the party! What a proud moment!
Rootie's Christmas book turned over a lot of the same kind of memories...the stores at Towson Plaza, our classes at Hampton Elementary School, and the sweet fun of being a kid at that sweet time of life when Camelot was in the White House and hope was still in our hearts, hearts that had yet to experience how bumpy the world was to turn out to be. While I'm reading these books, it's like childhood never ended, and I smile at some memory on every page.
Rootie's dad, Leo, drove the fire engine for our volunteer fire company now and again, and if I even thought for a moment as I hung on the back step on the way to a fire that these wonderful moments would come back to me in books written by a schoolfriend who was the daughter of the man driving, I never would have believed it.
I can believe anything now, including the power of the past to make the present happier and the future brighter. Please give Rootie's books a chance, whether you grew up with us or not. I promise you will find your own memories on these pages!