Friday, March 15, 2013

Living In The Past

   In the northeastern section of Baltimore City lies a community named Northwood. The original Northwood, or old Northwood as it's called, begins to the north of what once was Memorial Stadium, former home of the Baltimore Colts and the Orioles. Where old Northwood ends, a miles or so up Loch Raven Boulevard. new Northwood begins. That is the Northwood where I grew up, and the subject of my book, The Boys Of Northwood.
   It has been many years since I left that enchanting place of my youth, many years since I bid the days of adventure goodbye and turned to the realities of adulthood. Fortunately I live near enough to revisit the realm where my friends and I once ruled, and at least once a year I do.
   The changes that I see are subtle but significant. The row homes. that stretch for as far as the eye can see, are still there, and holding up rather well. The woods, where our gang had so many adventures, still looks the same from a distance. Moving closer I see the erosion of the hills leading down to the stream that runs through its center. Northwood Elementary School, our hangout, and the home to many a makeshift baseball and football field, still stands tall, but not for long. The word is it will be torn down soon to make way for a larger learning facility.
   The three old shopping centers within walking distance of my home have new facades and tenants  Liquor stores and laundromats have replaced the drugstores with their soda fountains, counters of candy and baseball cards, and racks of comics.
   There was one thing that had remained the same throughout the years, one constant reminder of the past. Ms. Tilly Zeller, the mother of my close friend Jimmy, who lived directly across the street from my brother Steve and I, still lived on 1501 Burnwood Road. The last of the parents of the boys of Northwood to do so.
   My parents and the Zeller's moved there around the same time in the early 1950s, not long after the homes were built. Northwood was the magical place of our youth, but as we grew older, we left Northwood for other communities, some near, some far.All, save for one, Ms. Zeller, our neighbor from across the street.
   She stayed on through the years, and as the old neighborhood changed, she became the one constant; the one who remained.
   Ms. Zeller has recently left Northwood, for health reasons, the last of us to do so.
   Changes come to all places. Northwood has changed through the years, and will continue to do so. The magic may be gone but Northwood will always exist, and Ms. Tilly Zeller will always be a significant part of its legacy.