Friday, October 16, 2009

Age of Innocence

The City. Traffic, tall buildings, buses on cables, newsboys hawking papers on every corner. Shoe shine stands and magazine stalls. Twenty-five miles from home sat the nearest city to the farm, Dayton, Ohio. It was a sweet day when Mom and Dad decided to spend the day there.

Mom loved to shop at Rikes. We walked into the department store where we were surrounded by lights, sweet smells of perfume and elevators that took you to a place called the mezzanine. From a child's view, I could look directly into the beautiful glass cases holding sparkling jewels. Instead of the small sections of clothing, the store held floors of endless racks weighted with attire for all ages. At Christmas, the store windows were full of animated characters frolicking in the snow. Surrounded by lights and movement children pressed their small, shining faces against the glass.

We always had lunch at the Virginia Cafe. Dad usually took care of me as we passed the down the line pushing our trays. Of course, Dad and I always had fish. It was our tradition. Little did I realize that the cafe sat next to the Mayfair, a burlesque. While we ate our filets, women in feathers danced next door and comedians 'yucked' it up for the audience. It was the city.

Mom always stopped at the music store. She shopped for choir music and both of us dawdled over sheet music looking for something new to pluck out on the piano when we returned home. Dayton was a wonderful  get-away from the farm and full of excitement.

My first job was in Dayton. Engaged to a boy serving in Viet Nam, I moved to Dayton to work and wait his return. It was a time of unrest in the country. Dayton was not immune to the race riots and hatred that swept the country. Streets that once were fairly safe were now strewn with glass and charred vehicles. The city changed and with it so did I.

When I was a child, I returned from our trips to Dayton to the peace and safety of the farm. As a young woman, I found it hard to escape what I had seen and felt. Dayton had transformed me from an innocent girl  to a woman who could not go back to Neff Road and ever feel the same again.

Perhaps Neff Road was an age of innocence more than a place I lived.

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