Dear Michael and Caroline,
Always, in recalling your hometown, you return to the landmarks, to the places where something happened. Your first kiss. Your first fist fight. Your first poem. You return to those landmarks with your eyes wide open, all but expecting to see it all again.
And so I go back to Fair Lawn now and again, looking for myself all over, retracing my boyhood. I can still see Dunkerhook Park, on the outskirts of town, about a mile from our home. You went down Fair Lawn Avenue past River Road and crossed a short old bridge so narrow it accommodated only one car at a time. The road twisted again, and then there lay the park, tucked lower than the rest of the town, almost a secret. As parks go, it had the usual amenities – swings and slides, picnic benches, a gravelly parking lot.
But one day when a teenager, I went to Dunkerhook with my friends Kevin and Eric, and we took a dirt path into the woods that wound along a stream. Soon we had left the other park visitors well behind, nothing around us but trees and bushes, no sounds but those of the birds chattering and the stream gurgling below us. Deeper into the woods we went, watching our step on the fallen branches and stones underfoot.
Only Kevin knew where we were going, or so he claimed, saying we would soon be there. Kevin knew something about Dunkerhook, and had promised to show it to us, and now we were here.
The woods grew denser, the outline of the path we followed fainter, the stream seemingly louder. You never knew with Kevin. He was kind of a con man, always kidding around, making wisecracks. He always got the better of Eric.
I went through spells of friendship with Kevin and Eric, close for a while, then no longer close, but we always stayed friends, coming back together.
And now Kevin was luring us into unknown woods on a whim that we would somehow find the experience entertaining. Maybe he had brought three cute girls here to meet us or, more likely, discovered a dead raccoon, or a treehouse, or a cave.
We suspected that whatever he wanted to show us, it would probably be pretty cool.
P.S. – See Part 2 tomorrow.