I am surprisingly sad about the Indian.
This is not the original, I was excited when I first saw it last weekend, and it took some time to accept my gut reaction – that this was a replacement and not the one I remember.
The one I remember was etched into the wood of a dead tree rather than being carved out of it. He was not so visible from the road, but something you might see, or you might miss, as you walked by.
The first day I came across him, when I was 10 or 11 and exploring the neighborhood, I felt as if I had stumbled on the keeper of the spirits of the place I now lived. His lips were pursed as if he were whispering or chanting, sending his thousands of stories of the past into the present, to those who lived in the modern day. If you stood before him, you might imagine the low but haunting drone of many voices struggling to be heard.
The area I grew up in is rich in Native American history and sprinkled with place names like Indian Neck and Sachem’s Head, after the shape of the land, I realized as an adult, and not body parts as I had assumed as a kid. Of course when you spend your summers swimming at a beach called “Bloody Cove” you wonder. Given our Colonial past, many of our Sachem’s stories were likely to be tragic.
My neighborhood, and that of my grandparents, have changed since my days living there, and this carving is only a small part of that. Pretty beach cottages are now million dollar homes. Some of them are being flat-out leveled to build something more grand. Tennis courts have popped up where I don’t remember them. I recognize a few names on the mailboxes, but not many. I couldn’t afford to live there anymore.
I miss it, in that vague way that you miss your childhood, but I wouldn’t want to move back. I’m not the same person, it is not the same place. This is the first time in over a decade that I’ve been back, and I was there for a funeral. As I drove around after leaving my cousin’s house, I was conscious of looking for something; a missing piece, a sense of wholeness, and answer to my many whys, the story of who I am.
I didn’t find it. It maybe gone for good with the old Indian; a story never told.