It Takes a Neighborhood

It takes a village.  Or at least in my case it took a neighborhood.  Back in the days when I started my day with Mr. Rogers instead of Mr. Coffee, I was fortunate to grow up in a house that resembled Leave it to Beaver.  Dad worked hard and mom stayed home and took care of us and the house, minus the heels and pearls. She was always working while we were outside playing from sun up until the street lights came on and we stayed within earshot of her, or else.  Dinner was always made at home and was served at 6pm.  We played in a giant Pepper tree, used eucalyptus leaves as currency, and had bikes for transportation.  You didn’t need a phone to communicate with us.  The only text message we knew was typing “boobies” on our calculators, and you could find us by seeing which house had a pile of bikes on the lawn.  We had a neighbor that yelled at us whenever we went in her yard, day or night, but all and all, life was easy.

I had a best friend on each side of my house. On one side there was chain-linked fence between our houses.  We started climbing it around 3 years old and stopped the day I got married and left the neighborhood.  Her and I are 10 days apart in age, which I hated that she was older when I was little but am totally cool with now that we are in our 40’s.  Even as a really little kid she had chores to do before playing and I didn’t. I think it was because I am the youngest of 4 and was able to sneak out on chores. She did things like water plants, sweep the pool and wash cars. Every day I waited impatiently for her to get done so we could play, “Ok but Rainbow Brite was hoping to hang out with Teddy Ruxpin so bring him over when you are done.”  

On the other side of my house, on top of a hill, was my other best friend.  She had 6 siblings.  That house always had a lot of people there so adding one more wasn’t a big deal, and they never locked the door.  I used to show up early in the morning and sneak upstairs to wake her up.  Then we’d lie on the floor of her huge family room and watch TV and play board games until everyone else got up.  

All three of us turned out to be successful, hard-working adults and I know that the neighborhood raised us well. I use the lessons I learned as a kid every day raising my own kids.  They know that working hard and having dinner as a family is important, having chores to do as a kid builds adults with integrity, respecting other people’s property is a must, and locking the doors at night is probably a good idea.  

Ice Cream Man!

The 80’s.  The time when a stranger came to your house and offered you ice cream and candy and your parents were cool with it.  Our ice cream man’s name was Danny.  He wore a pinky ring and a short-sleeved button up shirt with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve that he left open to his mid chest.  He had a tattoo of a naked lady on his right arm and wore his dark hair slicked back like Craterface from Grease. We thought he was so cool although looking back, he was probably straight out of prison. 

We would stop what we were doing when we heard the high-pitched jingle of the ice cream truck’s arrival. We’d yell, “ICE CREAM MAN!” and race to find money and catch him even though he drove only about 5 mph. If we missed him as he drove by, we’d wait for when he came back down the road on the other side.  I wasn’t allowed to cross the street so my brother would carry me piggy-backed to the other side so I wouldn’t miss out. We’d impatiently wait in line hopping from one foot to the other trying to avoid burning our bare feet on the hot asphalt as we waited our turn.  I usually got something that had a rock-solid frozen piece of gum in it or a push-up.  It didn’t matter which one I got since it was so hot any ice cream melted all over my dirty hands before I had a chance to finish it. I loved it anyway.

Those were some of my best summer memories although, as a parent, I can’t help wondering what in the world my parents were thinking?