Today I was thinking about a place that I barely remember. It’s not that the memories themselves are hazy; there are just so few of them. I grew up in a very small town in the middle of Indiana farm land. You might say it’s a town that time forgot, but these days time has a better memory than it used to.
It’s the same town where my father spent his boyhood. Dad grew up in the 60s; and by the time I was in grade school, the town he knew had become a shadow of itself. But even in shadow, some silhouettes are more clearly defined than others; and in our small town, there were edges that had not yet completely blurred into the dark mass we call what used to be.
Ruch’s Confectionary was one of those edges – a long, tall building with heavy, creaking doors and display windows stuffed with toys, games and advertising displays that had gone out of date ten years ago. The “Open” sign was only turned occasionally, whenever Mrs. Ruch felt like being there.
Dad used to talk about taking a break from his paper route to sit in Ruch’s and drink an ice cold Coca Cola and eat a bag of barbecue chips. It sounded like heaven. So, one summer day, I decided to take a break from my own paper route and enjoy a Coke and a snack. The open sign was turned – Mrs. Ruch was in and I was in luck.
I pushed the door open with both hands and sauntered to the soda counter. Sitting on an old high stool I gazed around and took in the shelves that ran floor to ceiling. They were packed solid with merchandise I barely recognized. Trinkets, games and toys lined the walls and even fell onto the floor; the smell of mildew stung the air and I felt as if I was trespassing time itself.
I sat and waited for Mrs. Ruch to make her way to the counter and wondered if I was allowed to be here. I felt as if I had stepped into a scene never written for me; I was a stranger in time. I had no business here. Almost as a protest, I ordered a Coca Cola and a bag of chips when Mrs. Ruch shuffled in from the back room. I sat in silence and tried to imagine what it must have been like before the air went stale – before the life began to slowly fade into the shadows.