musings, nostalgia

Repost: Fairfax 1978…

Here’s a repost from April 2018. I’m adding it because it reminds me of a good time in my life… and because spring is here. The featured photo is a screenshot of the house my parents bought in 1978. We lived there for two years. I see someone has added on to it since we lived there. Looks like there’s a room built over the garage, which didn’t exist in 1980, when we moved. I liked that house, but my mom hated it. It’s curiously located very close to the LDS church. Little did I know that I would marry a member (now ex member) many years after we moved.

In the summer of 1978, I was six years old and my parents bought a house in Fairfax County, Virginia.  We lived in a suburban neighborhood at a time when people in America still got to know their neighbors.  I had a playmate who lived a few houses down.  His name was Chris, and we were in the same class in school.  He had an older sister named Kirsten.

I remember Chris and I had the run of the neighborhood and were allowed to run around unfettered.  We walked to school and played at a neighborhood playground that we discovered one day during our adventures.  I remember his dad was very German and his mom was very pretty and worked for the Red Cross.  She was pregnant when we met and delivered a daughter named Ashley in 1979.  I remember when Ashley was born because when I’d go to Chris’s house to see if he could play, she’d have posted a sign by the doorbell requesting that no one ring it.  Ashley was sleeping.

Now Ashley is 43 years old.  Chris lives in another state.  And Kirsten, whom I also remember playing with to a much lesser extent, is an artist in Georgia.  She appears to be quite successful, too.

I found Kirsten when I Googled.  I was amazed by how many people had written about her work.  When I checked out her ceramics for myself, I found myself wishing we still lived near Atlanta so I could visit one of her shows.  We were living in Georgia when I started this blog in 2010.  It’s entirely possible we could have run into each other had Bill and I not moved away from there.

I doubt either Kirsten or her brother remember me.  Ashley wouldn’t have known me at all, since we moved out of that neighborhood in 1980 and she was still a baby.  But I do remember them.  I remember calling Chris in 1983 once, when my parents took me to a party thrown by friends of my eldest sister’s, who lived in the DC area at the time.  That was the last time I ever talked to Chris, because in those days long distance was a thing.  I never forgot him, though, and always wondered how he was doing.

I really like Kirsten’s art.  I would like it even if I didn’t remember living near her when I was a little kid. I like quirky pieces and I can see that’s what she produces.  It looks like she enjoys European cultures as much as I do, too.  I see references to trips to France and Italy on her Facebook page for her work.  I don’t know if we would have been friends if my family had stayed in Fairfax, but I think it’s kind of cool to see what she’s grown up to be. 

Yesterday, I even joined Classmates.com so I could look at old yearbooks.  I found the one for the high school I would have attended had we stayed in Fairfax.  My aunt taught at that school and my second eldest sister graduated from there in 1979.  My aunt’s sons also graduated from there– one in 1986 and the other in 1988.  He would have been in Kirsten’s class, though I don’t know if they ran in the same circles.  It was a huge place, serving 7th through 12th grades.  I used to wish I could have gone to that school, which is probably still the biggest one in Virginia.  It seemed like the students had a lot more opportunities available to them than I did at my rural high school in Gloucester, Virginia.

Me at 17, looking like I smell something bad…

And me at 45… looking like I smell something bad…

And me at 49… 50 in a couple of months, looking like I know something.

I found Chris’s picture in that old yearbook, marveling at how different he looked at 18, although his face was the same.  I think of my own picture in my senior yearbook.  My mom hated it.  She said I looked like a snob.  Like everyone else who was 17 in 1989, I had mall bangs.  I kept them until sometime in the early to mid 90s.  Chris had an interesting haircut that makes me think he probably enjoyed alternative music.  But, of course, I don’t know for sure.

On another note, once again I am amazed by how much one can find out about someone just by knowing where to look online.  While I love that it satisfies my harmless curiosity, it also kind of serves as a reminder to be careful.  You never know who’s stalking you.  On the other hand, the Internet has also made it possible for Bill to connect with one of his long lost daughters… and it made it possible for me to even meet Bill in the first place.  It’s definitely a mixed bag.  I probably live a little on the edge, writing these blogs.

I can’t believe I knew these people over 40 years ago and still remember them so well.  My memory is probably pretty dangerous to some people.  😉

ETA: A friend who is moving to Fairfax, Virginia posted yesterday that she just got word that she and her family managed to secure membership to their community’s public pool. We were members of the pool in my old neighborhood, too. I remember it was a pretty awesome facility, as one would expect in Northern Virginia in the late 70s. It had a high dive, and as a six and seven year old kid, I didn’t mind jumping off of it. I probably wouldn’t do that today, but I read that they removed the high dive anyway, due to liability issues.

A screenshot from Google Earth of the pool I belonged to in Fairfax County as a kid. Gloucester was a huge shock.

My friend’s comment about the pool reminded me of how, when we moved to rural Gloucester in 1980, there was no community pool. My parents joined the American Legion Pool, which was not nearly as nice as the one in Fairfax. And, unbeknownst to us at the time, the American Legion Pool was racist. Black people were not allowed to be members. I didn’t find out about that until 1990, when I took a speech class, and my classmate (who went on to Princeton University), delivered a speech about our community’s need for a public pool. Our high school, at that time, didn’t have a swim team. It has one now, I believe.

I was shocked that the American Legion had such racist policies as recently as the early 1980s (we were only members for a few years). Years later, that policy was confirmed in a Facebook group I belonged to, in which some of my Black classmates bitterly complained about not being allowed to swim at the American Legion Pool in Gloucester! My parents eventually quit joining the American Legion Pool because I got busy with my horse and didn’t go anymore. And when I did want to swim, I could go to Fort Eustis or the Coast Guard Training Center.

I’m pretty sure that pool is now shuttered, and Gloucester does have new facilities for swimming. But I still have good memories of the Sideburn Pool in Fairfax. That was where I learned the very basics of swimming, which served me well years later, when I had to pass a swimming test to graduate from then Longwood College (now Longwood University). The swimming test at Longwood, like its pools, are also now defunct.

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