By: Chelsea Moog
All I wanted was a haircut. And unfortunately, I can’t trust anyone coming at my head with a pair of scissors, besides my favorite hairdresser who just so happens to be located in Pasadena, Maryland. I hadn’t been there in four months, something I had noted as an accomplishment. But, my hair debacle had forced me to finally give in and make the trek to good ole Pasadena.
While I wasn’t thrilled to be returning to my hometown, Pasadena, I had a love/hate relationship with it, when I drove over the Stoney Creek Bridge, an overwhelming sense of comfort rushed through me. I had driven over the bridge more than a thousand times, but never felt such an intense feeling. There was nothing special about the bridge that day. The fogginess created a mysterious, eerie haze that prevented me from being able to see anything on either side of the bridge. However, as it was November, I knew there was nothing there to see, anyway. Pasadena is a place where in the summer, we party, and in the winter, we hibernate. By then, the boats were already cleaned up and put away for the winter, stored in garages or local boat yards.
I pulled into the salon’s parking lot off of Fort Smallwood Rd, and put the car in park. Taking a deep breath, I grabbed my purse, and made my way for the door. Pushing through the door, pass the “Xsalonce” sign, bells jingled letting someone know I was there. Immediately, I was greeted.
“Chels! Honey, how ya doin’?”
Mrs. Kathy, a larger woman with curves and full of spunk, hustled over to squeeze me in a welcoming hug. Her hazel colored hair, full of hairspray and teased to create a much larger look, engulfed my face in our hug.
“I’m good! How are you?”
“Oh, ya know, the same ole shit. What brings you in today? God, you’re really growing up fast! I miss ya. Ya haven’t come in a while. How are mom and dad?”
Mrs. Kathy has always talked fast, never one to really let you get a word in, but she’s full of love and positivity. I grew up with her son, and although we were never really close, his mom and I always talked.
After a bit of catching up and reminiscing, I told her I needed a haircut and after some looking around through the scheduling book she told me she didn’t have anything available until Sunday. Knowing I had important plans the next day, I told her I’d think about it and give her a call. An, “I’ll see you soon,” and a few hugs later, I retreated back to my car.
I had a few hours left until I needed to go back to Owings Mills to get ready for work, so I decided to drive around, see what had changed since I had left. Heading back onto the main road, I found myself driving towards my high school.
I had graduated with the class of 2010, the last class to graduate from the original Northeast High School that was built in 1964. Since 2010, the school has been torn down and remodeled in sections, leaving many alumni saddened, but excited for future and current students.
I ended up parking by the new football field. Looking out onto the field I could remember how it used to look and boy, things had changed. The muddy field that was once there had been replaced with turf. The bleachers, originally, were wooden, worn, and had many names and numbers etched in them. Now, the bleachers were metal and in the schools colors, black and gold. Continuing to notice all of the new changes, I began to feel like an outsider, a stranger. It wasn’t the same school anymore.
Reluctant to go into the school, I slowly made my way to the main entrance. Looking up at the building, I could see perfectly how the original stood. Made of brick, the gym entrance was on the left, the main entrance on the right, a loop combined both the faculty and student parking lots that were on different ends of the school. In the middle was a huge section of grass filled with trees where you would find students hanging out during lunch on a nice day. However, today, the school is much larger, modern, and unfamiliar. The building itself is now grey and made of what looks like tiles. There are windows all along the building and the grassy area is now gone. If I didn’t know better, I would have said it was a university instead of a high school.
I went to open the door, when a student casually let me in and continued to walk out. I couldn’t remember what time school let out, but I assumed it was coming soon or I hoped, because that kid was long gone. Then again, it is Northeast, so who really knows, anyway?
Mrs. Tammy, one of the main faces at Northeast, strided over to me with open arms for a hug. Her big blonde hair full of curls and the slight scent of cigarettes told me that not much had changed on the inside of the new building. Mrs. Tammy is tall, mainly legs, thin, and one of the sweetest women I had ever met. She lead me on a brief tour of the new building, giving me unneeded details of what’s gone wrong, what she doesn’t like, what’s not working, and of course the latest gossip. I nodded and smiled, keeping quiet, until I started to pick up whispers. Students who passed us in the hallways asked each other, “Who’s that? Is that a teacher or a student?” I laughed to myself and ignored them. Northeast is a relatively small school where everyone knows everyone, so it’s easy to point out an unfamiliar face.
Along the tour, we would run into my old teachers, do a quick catch up, and I would promise not to “be a stranger.” Unfortunately, this may have been my last time returning to Northeast, for I didn’t have any reasons to return after. However, it wasn’t like I had any reason to return then.
The entire time Mrs. Tammy and I were walking through the school, I kept trying to remember what it used to look like. I spent so much time in the building, I just wanted to reminisce, remember a much simpler time when I wasn’t bogged down with “adult responsibilities.” But, the school looked nothing like it used to; heck, it didn’t even smell the same. That is, unless you count the bathrooms, which will always smell like cigarette smoke. That’s one thing that they’ll never be able to change.
After getting a tour of the new school, we headed back to the main lobby where I said my goodbyes. I found Bruiser, my light blue Jeep Liberty, where I had originally parked it, except there were no longer any cars surrounding it. It was just me and Bruiser.
I started to wonder where to go next, whether to head back to my apartment or wander around the little town some more, when I just started driving, not really sure where I was headed. Back on Fort Smallwood Rd, I headed towards the Stoney Creek Bridge when a poster on the left hand side of the road caught my eye.
I pulled over to the sign and there I was at the snowball stand I had worked at for a few summers. But, my heart sank. Tony’s Produce and Garden Center wasn’t what I remembered. Sitting on the corner of Fort Smallwood Rd and Bedford Rd was a little piece of home. The shack was an octagon shape that couldn’t have been more than 10 feet by 5 feet (just enough room to make snowballs.) The roof was grey, the walls white with each corner painted red. The steps and porch were painted blue, and on top of the overhang was a sign that read, “SNO BALLS.” However, windows were closed and the gates that opened up to the produce and garden center were chained and locked.
As I looked through the fence, I could see that most of the plants were dead. The place looked as if someone hadn’t been there in months, which was unusual. Remembering the sign that had intrigued me in the first place, I turned to read it and understood. It wasn’t a sign to promote what Tony had to sell; it was a sign that showed Tony had passed away.
My instant reaction was shock. How had I not known? When did it happen and how? The sign appeared to be old and worn, which told me it had been there a while. I couldn’t believe I was just then finding out. I knew I hadn’t been to see him in a while since I had moved, but I just couldn’t believe it.
Having had enough for one day, I decided to head to my apartment. Pulling out onto Fort Smallwood Rd once again, the road that ties Pasadena together, I headed towards the bridge. Passing the old bowling alley that’s being torn down and built into a Royal Farms, I remembered my parents telling me how they met there and the nights I sat on the ledge and watched them bowl with my Barbies in hand. I passed the vacant corner that lead into my neighborhood where an old beaten up van sits. Nothing unusual as there was always something sitting there, even if it wasn’t supposed to be. I passed my old elementary school, and turned left onto Main Avenue. Going up and over a small bend, the trees were different shades of red, orange, and gold, allowing just hints of sunlight to shine through. And without even realizing it, I turned onto Harlem Road. I slowly made my way down the steep hill and stopped directly out front of my old house.
Without thinking, I had made my way to my old home. My parents had only moved out four months ago. It was as if it were my natural instinct to go there. I sat there, just taking everything in, for a while. The house was a shade of green with a darker shade of green shutters. I could remember when we painted it and how my parents struggled for weeks to decide on a color. The grey roof was steep and worn. Only you wouldn’t know that just by looking at it, you’d have to be inside and see the water that has soaked through into my old bedroom. The large windows at the front of the house that show into the kitchen, were always where you would find me and my dog, Buddy, waiting for my Mom to come home. Then there was the plum tree that shaded the entire house and the azalea grass that you could lay in for hours, it was just that soft. And finally, my favorite part here, the stone porch with the concrete steps that flowed into a long concrete sidewalk. I spent a lot of my time on those steps. Whether it was talking with someone or just sitting there alone, thinking about God only knows what. I decided to get out of my car and go sit on the steps one final time. The women in my family had always sat on the steps; it just brought comfort for some reason. As I sat there, looking down the long walkway, I felt warmth in my heart. This wasn’t just any sidewalk, oh no, it was the kind you used to run into the arms of the person you loved or cared about. Its length made the anticipation of waiting for that person to get to you almost unbearable, so you had to run to them instead.
After sitting there for what felt like only a few minutes, I looked at my phone to see that a half hour had passed by, my Mom had called, my boss had called, and I had a text message from my boyfriend. Instead of responding to them, I got off the steps and decided to walk down to the pier across the street, I turned off my phone in the process as I just wanted to be alone so I could take everything in one last time.
A yellow rusted gate that closed off the boating ramp area from trespassers brought a smile to my face. As I walked by it, I could remember all of the times I sat at the gate waiting for my friends so we could go ride bikes and all of the times people’s truckswould block the road as they fumbled with their keys to the gate. I continued on
my walk down the paved road to the shortest pier that sat right next to the boat ramp. To my right, I could see the Stoney Creek Bridge and a few piers within walking distance. To the left, if I looked far out enough, I could see the Key Bridge and part of the Inner Harbor. And, right in front of me, what would always let me know I was close to home, as it was always a Pasadena landmark, were the smoke towers from the Brandon Shores generating station. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I’vealways thought of it as a little “trash town,” because we lived right across the creek from coal-fired power station. However, aside from the smoke that was always within clear view, the sight from the pier was always beautiful. No matter what time it was, I could usually go to the pier for a tiny piece of serenity.
Sitting on the pier, I looked around the Stoney Creek. My feet dangled off the edge, and as I leaned back on my hands, my fingers brushed against chipped grains of wood which I knew were carvings of names, numbers, and profanities. I smiled and took in a deep breath of air. The water was starting to get rough and high tide was coming shortly. I pulled my feet up onto the pier and my mind began to wander.
The longer I sat there the more grateful I became for the house that built me and the more grateful I became for the town that built me. Although there were so many new things happening in the little trash town (as I’ve always called it,) the people, the values, and morals, were all the same. I was raised in a town where your neighbors became your family whether you liked it or not. The ladies in the grocery and dollar stores call ya, “Hon,” and Fourth of July is bigger than Christmas. Fireworks go off year round, for no special occasion, and you’ll rarely find people in the summer without a beer in their hand.
Pasadena isn’t a luxurious, high-end town, or a place where nobody knows your name. Pasadena is small area filled with a lot of history, a lot of love, and a lot of good times. I had to move away just to realize how great of a place it is, and I can’t wait to return to what I lovingly call my favorite “trash town.”