Born in the early sixties, I was at the tail end of the Baby Boom and if my hood was any indication of that era, "boom" is an excellent word to describe the times. Every house on my street had at least two kids and the street was rockin' as everyone was nearly the same age. Everyone hung out together and you never had to be bored or alone. And the best/worst part of it-- I was born into a neighborhood of boys......and lots of them.
If I guess, I would say there were about 20 boys within a block of my house, all within a year or two of my age. There were a few girls, but they were sparse and definitely not part of the "gang", I was included only because I had a brother.
When Steve went out, so did I. When he played "hillbilly tackle" with the guys, so did I. When we got a game of "American Bison" (a homemade rollerskating/tackle game on the asphalt) together, I was in. Movie night in the garage, football by the factories, crawfish hunting in the prairie, Competitive Hopscotch, and Monkey Piles on the lawn, all included me--the lone girl in this mass of testosterone.
Was I the little sister--the one everyone adored, cute little thing tee-heeing at the boys? The fragile lovely female that all secretly adored? Nope. I was referred to as "Puffy" for my entire awkward pre-teen years forward. I was the lumpy, drag-along, one-of-the-guys kinda gals. Think of "Anybodys" in West Side Story--although I wasn't so hard-core on being a tomboy. I just did what they did--but I drew the line at spitting.
I have the most incredible memories of growing up on that block. We were a block that was unbelievable--a mass of good kids who all got along, raised on good values and fresh air. We hung out on the corner to plan our next adventure, not to get into trouble. We didn't drink or do drugs--instead we played whiffleball in the empty lot on the next block and made up our own games. We played "two-block it" and ran around the neighborhood. We showed home movies in the garage with Mike reading Reader's Digest jokes in between rolls. We made banners for White Sox Banner Day. We made Polish cannons out of cans and sat out under the street light to just talk and laugh. We'd hide out in the bushes while my brother dressed up like Resurrection Mary (a local "ghost" who hitchhikes by the cemetary) and waved at cars. Sure, he had a full beard, but we powdered that sucker up good for effect. We did everything and nothing. We were just good kids hanging out, growing up, and having a good time.
It was unbelievably good and I get glassy-eyed revisiting those times in my head and in conversation. It was white bread fun, but fun just the same. I can't believe how honest and good it all was, and I wonder sometimes if it was just me, idolizing the innocence of my youth.
I met up with some of the old 'hood Saturday night. Someone got a few pallies together and we all shared a beer and a ton of laughs. We shared the same stories and reminded each other of things others had forgotten. The memories were suprisingly the same--how we never got into trouble, how creative we were to entertain ourselves, how free we were, how we were always outside, and how much fun it truly was. We weren't fantasizing this idealistic youth--it truly happened.
I smiled until my face hurt, seeing everyone again, laughing about old days, and cracking up about how old we are now.
"Do you feel old?" David asked me.
"Only my body on certain days," I tell him. "but I still feel like 15 in my mind".
"Yeah, me too" he said quietly.
It's weird to see the neighborhood "kids" as Police Sergeants and Vice President of Controllers of major banks--I still see them as the kids they were. Maybe their bodies have changed and we've all gotten older, but I still see the "Mike! Mark! Dave!" that their mom used to yell out the door.
As Joe and I walked through the parking lot, I worried that they would not recognize me after all these years. We figured it had been about 15 years or so since the last wedding where we all saw each other. Everyone says I look the same, but I think they are just being polite.
I open the door, the sea of faces turn to see who it is. It is quiet for a too-long pause and I hear .....
Yep. Home, again.
And no, that isn't me in the center of the photo looking all cute-like. I'm the dork on the left.