"I've been walking these streets so long,
Singing the same old song,
I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway,"
Glen Campbell - Rhinestone Cowboy
|A View Of My Elementary School|
I spent a week with my dad helping him with his rehabilitation and moving him to assisted living. I knew it would be an emotionally hard time so in the mornings I would take a short time to either jog or walk around my neighborhood. My mind wandered a lot though my years in my family's house. Yes, the Glen Campbell song doesn't literally apply, but the verse came to mind as I realized that, yes, I know every crack in the sidewalks of my childhood neighborhood. I know that this was a great chance to process more of what it was like to grow up as I did. I've said it many times that my childhood was like the Wonder Years. Suburbs with manicured lawns that we ran on like we owned them all. There were neighbors who we knews like family and the elementary school there was also an extension of the people and play that we experienced.
My house sits in a cul-de-sac. To me and my friends it was a football field, baseball stadium, basketball court, a fort and a race track. The man hole cover served as home plate. My dad built a basketball hoop that still stands at the end of our driveway. I think of how much all that playing time has shaped me. It's not just how to throw a curveball or a perfect spiral, but also the quality of time playing with friends in the sunshine and rain. We used to play ball from the time we got up until it was dinner and then schedule a game of hide and seek until it was dark (the telephone poll was home base). It's amazing how many hiding places you can come up with when you have the time and the challenge.
|Hangman's Hill is now a subdivision|
Behind our house was a hill, a canal and a dirt road. That was our place of adventure. It was a dirt bike track, a trek into enemy territory, and a place to light off firecrackers. There was a tree on the top of the hill that had a long arm extending horizontally. We called it Hangman's Hill because of the tree resembling a gallows. Of course we were told that an actual hanging happened there and that the hill was haunted because of that - there's nothing like a kid's active imagination and the power of urban legend. The hill is now covered by a large subdivision. As for the canal, we used to find ways to climb down in there and run along the small stream. It was sort of a rite of passage to do this. As it involved strength, courage and the daring to avoid getting caught. It seems that most of our secret passages are blocked off now and as a dad, I understand why. But in some ways, I'm sad for the kids who live in the neighborhood today. There's no hill to climb that has dirt, brush and jack rabbits to negotiate. There's no place where your friends can challenge each other to tests of strength and courage.
I hope that everyone who reads this can find and remember a place that was "their own". A place where play and imagination ran free. Within that as adults we can find that inner self that we so easily lose - I call it child-likeness. Some may even call it our soul. Mostly, it is a place of freedom. I seriously believe when we make it to heaven, that will be the prevailing feeling - joy, peace, freedom, laughter, creativity and yes, play. If so, I found a little bit of heaven in a suburb lined with cookie cutter houses.
"Come and go with me to my Father's House,
It's a big, big house, with lots and lots of rooms,
A big, big table, with lots and lots of food,
A big, big yard, where we can play football,
A big, big house, it's my Father's house."
Audio Adrenaline - Big House