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Monday, June 1, 2009

Ah, the smells...

Today I was driving past the railroad and the smell of tar and resin drifted into my car. There were men working on the tracks and the scent was fresh and sharp. I was immediately transported back to the 6th grade when I used to walk home on the railroad tracks with my friends. We would go to a wonderful soda shop right across the street from our middle school. It was called the Campus, and we would buy SOME candy there. We would buy the rest of our candy at a little store in the neighborhood that we called Fishies. They sold those little gummy fish individually, you know, as in penny candy? I have no idea what the name of the store was, it was just Fishies to us.

We would take our candy and Yoo-Hoo's and walk along the tracks. There was a special spot we had to hang out, it was a manhole in the middle of a stream under the tracks. There were four of us on that manhole at least once a week, and we couldn't even face each other because there wasn't room. We stepped gingerly from rock to rock until all four of us were safely seated, our bookbags were left on the shore. Thank goodness we were skinny or we would have pushed each other into the water every time we shifted position. We shared our deepest secrets on that manhole, and lots of candy. Our backs to each other, we would talk as long as we could.

Sometimes we would get tar on our shoes and pick it off while we sat there, rolling the little balls of black into tiny voodoo dolls of the teachers we disliked or the kids that thought they were so tough. We could hear other students walking the tracks above us, but no one ever noticed us right below them. Luckily for us, we were shielded by a huge Mulberry tree during the warmer months, during the winter, it was a bit cold to sit on a metal manhole. The kids that rode their bikes on the dirt trails that ran along the tracks were the ones that we were afraid of discovering our secret place. They were the noisy boys that teased girls and played "Keep Away" with the bookbags.

Thinking about this time in my life made me realize how precious a few stolen moments with one's girlfriends can be. I have no idea why there was a manhole sitting in the middle of a stream. Where could it lead? Someday I will go back there and see if the actual place fits the picture in my mind. Or maybe I won't and just let the memory be.

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