When we were much younger, we lived for 4 years or so on Everit Street in New Haven. Josh was 10, Mimi was 7 and Bern and I...ah, we were so much older then, we're younger than that now...(Thanks Robert Zimmerman).
Anyway, the people next door had four children, the people across the street had 4 children, the people down the street on our side had 3 children and down the street on the other side had two. All of them were within 4 or 5 years of each other. The Vandals were at the gate. The children were running wild. They prowled the street like wolverines, racing in and out of all the yards and houses, eating enough food in each to feed a third world nation, having plays in the backyard, careening up and down the street, coloring the sidewalks with pastel chalk art work, making up games and they ran, wild and out of control.
And it was great. I hope all those kids remember those years as fondly as I do. The parents, for their part, made trips to the grocery store for apple juice and grapes and cheese and made trips to the package store for wine and beer, which we drank, talking to each other across back yards, listening to the whoops of the banshees that were our children.
I'm so happy we could give our kids Everit Street for a few years, living as we did on the corner with East Park Road that led up the hill to woods where our kids would wander until darkness fell on summer nights.
That was my childhood, only in a rural place, and Bern's as well. Running free--no soccer or softball, no dance classes or music lessons--just wild abandon, just freedom, just safety, just 'being children'....
We have new neighbors next door to the east. They have at least 3 kids and to the west our neighbors have 4 and 2. And in these last few days, I've come to believe we're back on Everit Street, only Cornwall Avenue now, as those kids have begun, as a blessed warming has begun, to run riot between the three houses.
What a joy to hear their screams and laughter and sounds of mindless play. They do have soccer practice and softball games and lots of other things that are now de rigor for a suburb like Cheshire. But they do have a few hours to maraud in a tribe, back and forth between their homes.
I heard a woman on radio today who writes for The Atlantic, saying that the screens and pads and tablets that our granddaughters are so drawn to are just like the last obsessive toy they had and they will leave them behind and seek the freedom and chaos of simply being children. I so pray she is right.
My childhood was so free of structure and organization and adults thinking they knew what children needed that I wish that for every child. I know it isn't possible because that kind of childhood requires the assumption of safety and most children live on unsafe streets, in dangerous places far from the freedom of Everit Street and Cornwall Avenue and southern West Virginia.
I know for a fact that I hate for my life to be too structured or organized or compartmentalized. That's why I'm so good at being retired. When people ask me if I'm bored with retirement I look at them as if they were a squirrel or a snail that somehow learned to ask a question in English. I LOVE being retired. I have more than enough to do and the rest of the time I have 'nothing' to do and do, well, mostly 'nothing'. I'm not even sure I know what 'being bored' would look like. Hey, I'm an only child who never knew the distraction of siblings and grew up wandering the woods for untold hours, just learning to appreciate my own company and being perfectly content to be alone.
"Boredom" is a concept like "light speed" to me. I simply have no idea what it means.
I listen to the banshees of Cornwall Avenue in the late afternoon and remember the Vandals of Everit Street 25 or more years ago and the endless varieties of green of the mountains where I grew up and spent those endless summer days.
I take a deep breath and remember all that and ponder how wondrous childhood should be...and seldom is....
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