Wednesday, May 5, 2010

With Nostalgia For The Hood


Bea has been asking me to tell her stories about when I was a little girl. Yesterday, we were at a playground in the town I grew up in. On our way home, I took us on a detour to my old neighborhood.

I hadn't been there in a few years.

The top of our little dead end road looks about the same. The gray house on the right, still gray, but the sweet old couple long gone. I'd taken care of the Mrs. a few years ago. She'd pretended to remember me and the fact that if it was raining, she would call out to us as we waited for the school bus, and offer her porch as shelter.

Across from the gray house, the brown house is still brown, the old couple also gone. They weren't as sweet, we didn't dare seek refuge on their doorstep, but the old man had a beautiful garden and a plum tree. I never took a plum that wasn't offered by old Mr. P.

Next house down on the left; the old maid Viola. She was born and died in that house (or so the story goes). She shared the house with her brother until he died. My youngest sister adopted her and thought of her as a grandmother. We would have her over for holidays. She spilled red wine on the living room carpet.

Our house was across from Viola's.

Even as a child, I appreciated what a spectacular house I was lucky enough to live in.

The view from the expansive back yard.

That porch wrapped all the way around to the front. That's a Widow's Walk on the roof. Fabulous view of the ocean from up there.

I know. Awesomeness to the squillionth degree.

The kitchen door spit us kids out onto a biggish driveway that curved out to the road. I'd strap on my roller skates, or grab my bike and hang a right for a nice little downhill cruise.

I barely gave a thought to cars. Even after Mr. B from the end of the road killed our sweet little dog Pixie. Nearly decapitated her with his snowplow. I may or may not have yelled "Dog Killer!!" every time he passed by in his truck.

At the bottom of the little hill, a log cabin style place, home to supposed 'druggies'. The teenagers that lived there I was told were bad news. I believed it and kept my distance.

Neighbor to the druggies, my buddy Josh. There was a little path from my yard, down a wooded hill and onto the road. It would land me right in front of his house. He had a zip line behind his house, and chickens. We played a lot. He got a mouth full of soap after a game of hide and seek which ended in him yelling "SHIT!" when I'd found him.

I remember him screaming, pleading for his mom to not give him the soap. He'd probably learned that word from me.

After Josh's house, the road went uphill again. His neighbor, a guy named Winkie. Winkie had rescued a dog from a bad situation. Poncho was his name. I begged and begged until my parents relented and Poncho was ours. We had that scrappy dog for years.

The B's were across from Winkie, their house taking up the whole right side of the dead end circle. The steep bank from the road to the B's yard was covered in Mr. B's precious myrtle.

The circle was the perfect place for a game of four square. Mr. B had some super hearing, or ESP when it came to his myrtle, because if our ball came within inches of his greenery, he'd fly out of the house yelling at us to "Keep. Off. My. Myrtle!!"

I always thought Mr. B was an ass hole.

The B's were an unfortunate looking bunch. The youngest was special in some way, but always my friend. The middle girl was the stand out looker. I wondered how she got so lucky.

The house at the very end was one of the oldest in the town, built in the 1600's. I remember the wide floorboards, obviously not level, and a really cool loft. Those people were nice.

So. I got to tell Dottie all of this as we crept along the backdrop to my childhood.

How my siblings and I and the neighborhood kids would meet and the bottom of the hill to organize games of flashlight tag, kick the can, roller skate races.

How we wandered the woods with not a care about the dangers that lurked in the shadows. They were there, but we didn't know it.

How we'd stay out till dusk. How Mom would ring a bell when it was time to come in. Was it a cowbell? I think maybe it was.

I found myself jealous of Mom. She got to unplug the TV and banish her kids to the outdoors, "Don't come in 'til I call you". She knew we were safe out there, even if we really weren't. There were friends and neighbors looking out for us. Our little dead end road a safe bubble of childhood innocence.

I wonder if she realizes the she mothered the last generation of kids who would experience that kind of childhood.

I'm uneasy letting my kids play in our yard unsupervised.

As Bea and I got to the top of the hill, to the circle, there was an old man digging in his yard. He shot us a dirty look as I slowed the car in front of his house.

Mr. B.

I rolled down my window and called to him;

"I'm Tulpen SoandSo from up the road!"

He hobbled up to my car and lied;

"I thought you looked familiar!"

We talked for a good fifteen minutes. He filled me in on what his kids were up to. The oldest two married with kids. The youngest, the special one, a teacher.

The 'druggies' parents are raising their grandchildren.

The 1600's house is being meticulously restored.

Winkie is long gone.

He seemed genuinely tickled to have seen me. He asked about every one of my five siblings. I gave him only the good info. He told me to tell my folks "Hi"; he couldn't believe it's been ten years since they left.

"So good to see you again Mr. B. Tell everyone I said 'Hello'.

"Nice to see you too. Now, I've got to finish planting this myrtle."


Sprite's Keeper is spinning up thoughts on Mothers.

I figured this was close enough.

Happy Mommy's Day Y'all.

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