Sunday, January 29, 2012


Megan came home a couple days ago, surprised. She'd heard from a few local friends that they didn't have fire hydrants in their neighborhoods, and that when the occasion arose, firefighters would pump water from a lake before rushing to the hypothetical scene. This was another reminder of how rural the surrounding area is.

"But, wait," I said, ever the curious contrarian. In my own 0ff-the-sewer-grid childhood neighborhood, did we have fire hydrants?

I never danced in the flow of a broken hydrant on a pavement-shimmering summer afternoon. And I can't remember using hydrants as finish lines in bike races. So I called my mom yesterday to check on the geography of my nostalgia. She couldn't confirm anything.

"We've had fires, so we must have hydrants," she declared, laughing at her logic before she'd even finished the sentence.

And, in fact, we have had some fires on Brookside Avenue, a post-war outcropping of single-family homes about three miles from Greenfield Center. The most ironic one came only a few hours after the decommisioning of our volunteer fire department, a tiny garage at the first loop of Brookside that blocked the path to the Gravel Pit (I never, ever went to the Gravel Pit, which, if my mom was to be believed, is about as dangerous as a motorcycle ride; playing there would result in gruesome dismemberment--or at least some pretty nasty abrasions).

In that tiny garage, a tiny fire truck lay idle, breeding ghosts (besides ghosts, there were also many beetles).

That early-morning fire--The Koblanski Fire--has always been my symbol of Harlot Fortune: HF being the nasty, androgynous world-spirit who plays arsonist just a few hours after anything can be done about the flames.

But besides that attention-getting neighborhood legend--only retold because the Koblanski house was spared--fire was never on my mind. Maybe we didn't have hydrants. Maybe we too would have had to wait for a pumping truck if our fireplace-flue ever got really gunked up, or if a wayward casserole went forgotten in all its blackening-Durkee-Onion-glory.

My belief in my own hydrantless childhood grew.

"Nutmeg never peed on a fire hydrant. And if we had hydrants in the neighborhood, we would have joked about her going on them," I told my mom, with the sort of air-loose logic that might be hereditary.

"Girl dogs don't go on hydrants," she countered, echoing Megan's, "she was a girl dog so she wouldn't lift a leg."

Why must they always gang up on me? I knew my dog. And if there had been a hydrant in her realm, she would have figured out a way to do something disgusting to it. And if she did that, I would remember it, I thought.

But as today's photographic evidence proves, I was wrong:

(This hydrant sits near where an old, excellent VW bug with white window shutters used to hang out. The green house in the background always had very scary dogs. Across the street in a vermillion colonial (not-pictured) lived a witch).

(The opposite curve of our circle was filled with very ancient people, all nice, all with sun-porches).

(I can barely even see this hydrant so I almost refuse to believe in its existence. Even if I stipulate to the pictorial evidence, I assert that this hydrant is a post-2000 addition).

(My mother points to the memory-jogging hydrant. Seeing my breath, enduring my soggy feet, I almost feel Nutmeg pulling me with her flexi towards this oasis of urine. The red house behind it is not ours; the house behind that house is ours. I probably should have remembered this one, seeing as how it's a couple dozen yards from my old bedroom).

No comments: