I moved from California to Pennsylvania when I was four years old. My father drove the ass-brown VW Vanagon the whole way because my mother was afraid to pass trucks. I remember being enthralled by the video games at the KOA Kampgrounds. Remember Double Dragon? My brother could do the elbow move. I adored him. While they moved in the boxes, I laid on the floor of my new room and watched the story of the Spruce Goose on a black-and-white television. The carpet was thinly striped, alternating bright green and bright yellow. The wallpaper was cartoon owls.
We only stayed there five years.
214 Weldy Avenue, Oreland PA, 19075.
I have lived in Illinois since then.
I have never been back.
The following is a guided tour of the neighborhood surrounding 214 Weldy Avenue, Oreland PA, 19075, circa 1987, where the tourists ride golf carts through my brain, and the guide is an eight-year-old me on a Huffy bike, handed down from my brother but still with some fight left in it.
Weldy Avenue was named after the man that built the street. 214 Weldy Ave. belonged to his daughter. It’s a Sears house, meaning the blueprints were purchased from a Sears catalog from that time in American history when Sears sold entire houses. It’s an old Victorian, white pillars and frowning windows. A robust yew hedge in front. A pine tree taller than the roof near the driveway. You have to sweep the pine needles off the driveway each spring if you want to play basketball.
Oreland, PA is twenty miles north of Philadelphia, off 276 and Pennsylvania Ave. Weldy is a cross-street off a long, sloping hill street, which incidentally is named Hill Street. Hill St. arches down a long way, down there to the end where it curves around. There’s a golf course down there, which doubles as a sledding hill. At the bottom of the sledding hill is a stream. Don’t go in there if you’re sledding. You’ll get hypothermia. You’ve got to learn how to bail out if you want to sled here. Hill Street is a steep hill. Biking back up to get home is a pain, but you’ve got to do it, so you don’t really mind, especially if you have a paper route here. Greg Root lives on Hill, above Weldy. We’ll get to him later.
There’s a lot of sledding hills around here. At the end of Hill St., if you follow it around and go past the golf course, you come to another sledding hill at the church. The church is at the bottom of a steep-ass driveway, and has a steep-ass hill for its front yard. When they plow the parking lot, they push all the snow to the edge of the grass, which makes a ten-foot quarter pipe for sleds. There’s another sledding hill on another golf course on Pennsylvania Ave. It’s not as steep, but it goes forever. My brother got caught there by the guards once, but he pretended he was British and they let him go.
The trees are mostly oak. When the acorns fall, the cool kids can make bad-ass whistles out of them. Acorn fights pre-date paint-ball by decades.
If you take Hill Street all the way up, you get to the busy road that links the neighborhood with the important things like Sandy Run Middle School and the Acme: Pennsylvania Ave. It’s lined with trees whose bark resembles sandy camouflage fatigues. I don’t know what the genus is, or how the tree does it. The image I have is frozen wonder, crossed with a Roald Dahl book about alligators. I cannot separate the two.
Everyone lives around here. Greg Root lives up on Hill Street in a big, brown house with a lot of acorn trees. He loves the Syracuse Orangemen. It’s part of his identity. He’s short, but quick on his feet. He’s also best friends with the love of my life, Megan Moran.
Megan lives down and over, down by the 7-11 and the hoagie shop. Sorry, that’s the only way to explain it. I don’t know any street names on that side of things. I do know that you can roller-skate to her house. She loves to roller-skate, so if you want to go out with her, that’s a sure date. You can roller-skate up to Greg Root’s house together. Greg won’t mind. Their relationship is purely platonic, a result of close parental ties.
Megan has freckles and red hair, and will be eight years old forever.
Rebecca Hill lives off of Hill St., a block below Weldy. I think she has a big, brown house too. She’s got some super long blonde hair, and is taller than me. But she’s nice. Her brother Ben is older by two years, but he still comes out to play.
The dog across the street from my house belongs to the old lady on the block. Every block has one. It’s a Scottish terrier, and hides in the leaves we rake up in the fall. We rake them curbside so the big suck-up truck can come get them with its giant suck-up nozzle. When anyone passes, the Scottish terrier bursts from its bunker in the leaves and unloads a flurry of yaps. It will usually not bite you. If it frightens you, stick around until Tuesday when the suck-up truck comes by. You’ll see who frightens who.
Pat Ross: She lives two doors down and is the only one with cable. If you take care of her cats while she’s on vacation, she’ll pay you and you can watch MTV before the bus comes. There’s a song with Tina Turner I saw there.
A FINAL NOTE
All names and places are completely pure, unaltered from my 1987 memory by either atlas or phone book. Though I have not seen 214 Weldy Ave. since I was eight, its memories refuse to fade. I still play hide and seek there. If you have ever lived in Oreland PA, or if you live in Philly and want a day-trip, you’re it.