The cul-de-sac of Juniper Road was my universe. An infinitely circular track for reckless bikeriding that, miraculously, never seemed repetitive. The host of many a competitive game of four-square. During the winter months it was no-man’s-land for the neighborly battles that ensued behind snow-bank fortresses. At one point it was a haven for the vague awkwardness that inevitably accompanied my first pre-teen relationship with the boy who lived down the street, as we nervously kicked our sneakers against the outer stonewall until it was time for him to trek home for dinner. (That was love.) It was also the stage for many long-forgiven quarrels between kid neighbors; and for sprawling out with a blanket, a bowl of ChexMix, and my two best friends to complete the taxing workload of a middleschool student.
The cul-de-sac seems small now. Cracks run like veins through the weathered cement circle. Physically it is just another distorted attempt to construct the American dream in a suburban world where sense of place has been largely abused and misinterpreted. There is no evidence that it once encompassed the entirety of my childhood—those times seem to have been absorbed into the pavement. The only thing that remains constant about the cul-de-sac is the familiarity of its memory, the sense of place I’ve mentally latched onto.
I can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia for the—my—cul-de-sac, as I reflect on my sense of place in Franklin, Massachusetts, where I’ve spent fourteen years of my life and from which most of my memories originate. A quote by Greek philosopher Heraclitus comes to mind: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” For me, the cul-de-sac changes because I have come to see it differently. It represents a childhood world that only exists in memory. Yet I still strongly consider the cul-de-sac my place. To have sense of place, then, is not simply to remain in one place. It is to cherish a bond that survives the human paradox of constant change.