you can go home again . . . using google maps

It’s been thirty-eight years since I moved from my childhood home and I haven’t been back since. Well, I haven’t physically been back, but by the virtue of this amazing item called a PC that’s connected to something called the Internet on which I can view Google maps, I can go home again.

Last Saturday night, I Googled my childhood home’s address and was surprised to see that the Google car had been in my old neighborhood recently. A couple years ago, when I last checked on the place, all I got was an aerial view, so I had to really use my imagination to make out what I was seeing because it wasn’t the tightest of shots. I could see the roof and some of the trees, but it wasn’t a close enough view to give me quite the perspective I was looking for. But now Google’s street view has brought me straight to my front door.

A wave of nostalgia washed over me when I laid eyes on that little Cape Cod in a neighborhood of Capes, all small one-and-a-half-story houses on adequately sized yards, with no sidewalks (just the way I remember it). Some of the foliage was different. Gone was my favorite plant in the front yard, a big hydrangea filled with gigantic, to my little self, snowbally flowers in the late spring and summer. Also gone was the maple tree I can recall being on the opposite side of the driveway. And the paint colors were different too. My house used to be white with dark-green retractable awnings. Now it’s a light gray with a dark-blue trim. I usually don’t like blue on houses, but this looks rather nice.

The neighborhood, for the most part, looks the same, give or take a missing tree or two and the big “boat” American cars that were common back then, having since been replaced by Subarus and Hondas. But another thing is missing too: the children. Any time of day throughout the year when kids weren’t in school they’d be out in the streets, playing ice hockey or baseball or even tennis, with the net drawn onto the tarvia with chalk. They’d be gliding on bikes or skateboards or roller skates. They’d be hanging out on the front lawns playing Barbies on blankets or running around dodging each other in a game of tag or hide-and-go-seek. Even the adults would venture out to work on cars or chat with the neighbors. But on my old street 2015, not a soul was in sight, child or adult.

But it’s like that where I live now too. Everyone stays inside. No one knows their neighbors. We have beautiful weather here, not upstate New York weather, but kids are indoors watching TV (because cartoons and other shows are on all day long at the click of a few buttons) or they’re playing video games, (and I don’t mean Pong by Atari) or they’re on these wacky space-agey devices called computers and smartphones, taking pictures of themselves and posting them to their virtual friends and a whole bunch of strangers. Who’da thunk kids’ lives would have changed so much back when I was a short little girl with dark-brown hair and just a hope and a prayer for the future?

My old home looks good, thanks to the new owners and the entire neighborhood, actually. I thought the house, which is 65 years old, would look timeworn and depressing, but it doesn’t. Seeing my house makes me nostalgic for the “good ol’ days” and the person I was then. It also makes me miss the people who were a central part of my life, my parents, whom I no longer have. I miss mini me too, that child who loved Charlie Brown and drawing and reading and all the innocent things kids were into back then.

I used my mouse and traced around the block, following a path I used to take when riding my bike, feeling the breeze in my hair, and the freedom being on two wheels brought back then on those humid summer evenings or bright, sunny mornings. It was fun retracing the steps down to the bus stop, over to my friend’s house, back to another world.

I may not have visited my little old home in person, but, thanks to Google, I was there in spirit. And that’s virtually the same thing.