I Used to Own a Street

I'm still sick. The kind of sick that makes it hard to sleep and causes body aches and coughing fits. So this post may not be much of anything. But since I have been a bad blogger lately, at least on consistency (I have no idea about content... you're still here, so it must not be so bad), I thought I would treat you to a rare weekend post (And a kind of sappy one at that. What can I say? I'm sick. Sorry...).

I'm house-sitting for my parents for the next week (I've actually been here since Tuesday) and it's kind of strange. I mean, I come to my parent's house all the time. We do Sunday dinners and family get-togethers here all the time. But staying here overnight has been odd. Partly because I'm sick. Partly because I'm alone here, which never even really happened when I actually lived here. Partly because so much has changed--my bedroom is now a craft room and home to some very noisy birds. Partly because everything is the same and I still feel like a kid and it's safe and it's home, but at the same time it's not, because I have to get up every morning and go to work and make my own meals and all of my stuff lives somewhere else now...

I was reading a book in the yard yesterday. I had this crazy idea that sunshine might make me feel better or kill these germs that are currently feasting on my lungs like rabid dogs, but I'm not sure it helped anything other than the shy freckles on my forehead that are no longer shy. Anyway, not the point. I was sitting in the yard, reading. And I hear the neighborhood kids playing down in the street.

Now, before worry-warts out there object to children playing in the street, you should know that my town is very sprawly and has a pretty low population (compared to... well, the rest of the country). Most of the homes in this neighborhood sit on lots that are one acre or more and the lots have only been cleared enough to fit a house and a small lawn. The neighbors know each other and the cars drive slowly. So the street is a pretty safe place to play.

In any event, these kids are playing on the street. I can't really see them, because there are so many trees on my parents' property, but I can hear their giggles and their make-believe games and their bicycle wheels. And I remember playing on those very streets as a child. Playing those very games. Cops and Robbers. War. Hide and Seek. Capture the Flag. Running Through the Woods and Hopping on Bikes When We Got to the Street, Only to Jump Off Again and Go Running Through the Woods on the Other Side. You know, the games all kids grown up playing. At least in this town.

Brother and I used to own those streets. We shared them with the neighborhood kids, sure. But we OWNED them. We knew these woods like the backs of our hands. We had forts and tree houses (handmade and entirely unsafe) and teepees and hide-outs. Every summer, we would ride our bikes up and down the road, playing games and living adventures of our own making. We each had characters we would play, plots we would run through, rules we followed. We were saving the world or the damsel in distress. Or we were blowing each other up. It was very serious business.

We had patterns. We had routines. Water fights and bike rides in the summer, sledding and snowball fights in the winter, leaf catching in fall, and river building in break-up (we don't really have spring here; we have break-up during which all the snow and ice melt, the world turns to slush, and tiny rivers of water run down the street. And enterprising children in galoshes dig and scrape and mold the slush to make the rivers run any which way they want). Sometimes, a kid would move away or move in, but we expanded and contracted to suit the season and made sure the new guys learned the rules.

These were the streets where I broke two fingers on my left hand when I was 12--I was trying to use the handle breaks on my bike and didn't do it in time, so I rammed my outstretched fingers into the shoulder blade of one of the other kids and buckle-fractured them. Where I fell once when I was little and scraped up my knee. Grandpa carried me back to the house, kissed it, and put a bandaid on it--I still think of him when I see the scar. These were the streets we walked after dinner, the whole family together for a little while in the evening light. Where Brother once ripped the skin off both knees, elbows, and the knuckles of both hands and got up to keep playing. These were the streets where battles were won and lost, friendships began and ended. And began again the next day.

These are the streets where I grew up, but they are not my streets anymore. Many families have moved away. The ones who stayed have all sent their kids out into the world to make their own homes. As I listened to these kids laugh and squeal and use their imaginations to make their own adventures, I realized that the neighborhood is in new hands. These streets belong to someone else. Part of me wanted to run down there and tell them. To tell them about our adventures and our games and how we used to own these streets. To tell them they're playing on sacred ground. The ground of my childhood. To teach them all the things that these streets have taught me.

But I know that they'll find out on their own. They'll build their own forts (ours are long gone, although maybe they'll find the remnants someday and wonder about us, those who went before). They will invent their own games, with their own complex rules and strategies. They will develop their own patters and memories. They will learn their own lessons about life and friendship and the world. I hope they enjoy it. I hope these streets are good to them. I hope that one day, they'll come back to visit their parents and remember. Remember how, for a little while, they used to own these streets.


  1. You have some serious fever-induced sappiness going on here. And it's very sweet : )

  2. I find it almost painful to look back on Child Me and see how innocent and naive she was. Not that my life has gone badly - but there are so many things she didn't know, wasn't aware of. And learning some of them was hard.

    Loved this post. Hope you feel better soon.

  3. I know, right? I'm trapped inside my own brain these days. And this is what finally makes it out of my brain. I'm not sure what that says about me...

  4. Sometimes, I look back and I want to go back. Other times, I look back and cringe. Even if life wasn't bad, that kind of innocence is almost painful when you know everyone around you knew things you didn't.

  5. Very Sandlot-esque...I love it!

  6. It's totally sappy and nostalgic. But it's TRUE. I used to OWN that street. OWNED!!!!