My Old Neighborhood, My New Neighborhood

I continue to get back into writing, so I'm going easy on myself here with a little slice of life:

Last night Jared went out with a friend so I picked an extra evening of bedtime duty. "Clusters" we call them. Jared does two nights, I do two nights. Beren will ask, "Is it Papa's cluster or Momma's cluster?"

Alternating every other night was difficult, a little unsettling for all of us. At some point, we decided two nights in a row worked better for everyone. My evening kung fu class causes leap nights every other week.

Sometimes Beren asks for adjustments in the routine, depending on his desire for dynamic bedtime story (Jared's domain) or perhaps one parent has recently clamped down on him and he'd rather not snuggle with that parent (too bad). Only an absolutely ill parent gets a by on "BT" (bedtime).

Last night we followed the usual routine. I told him a rambling story about fairies. I told him a story about when he was little. Then, we deviated. He asked for a story about when I was little. I told him about the neighborhood where I grew up near the Rahway River.

There seemed to be so many kids on the block. Chris (a little kid who moved in a couple years before we moved. He played sometimes.), Ben (played all the time) and his older brother, Chris (much older, never played), and Carrie, my best friend. My brother was a baby, a baby in the house.

That makes three of us, and four if you count the latecomer, Chris. Back then, I felt like we were a massive band, a wild gang on trikes and bikes. Three of us. I was surprised to realize we were so few.

Our domain felt huge - from my house to Carrie's house on the corner. Six houses between Carrie's house and mine, maybe. Carrie's, the Knott's, Chris and Ben, maybe another white house, Bucky's (then little Chris' once Bucky died and house sold). The lots were small, houses separated by only driveways. It felt like we owned the vast world. I think we did.

I wish that for my son. A wild band of kids to freely roam with. That's not likely to happen. We live in a rural place not far from where my family moved when I was eight.

Families are busy these days. Now, you have to schedule "play dates". Every day was a play day in my old neighborhood. After school, weekends, all play time. Until Ben's dad whistled from him to come home for dinner.

At age eight, my family moved away from what I considered paradise. Looking back, I'm not sure that's true. Nothing lasts anyway. I went from owning the concrete sidewalk that we marked with chalk to owning the woods, all by myself. It was exciting but lonely. Eventually, my brother grew big enough to sometimes build forts with me.

My son is likely to roam the woods alone until like me he finds a couple friends to roam with him. Maybe when his legs get long enough to reach the next neighbor kid who likes the woods.

I recently corresponded with my very first and very best childhood friend, Carrie. I'm completed awash in strong feelings for that time.

I moved, she didn't. I wonder if she feels the same nostalgia, or I have clouded vision of over thirty years gone by.