On Saturday our neighbors moved to Arizona. A young family. The wife, husband, boy, girl, and dogs just up and left. A job opportunity for mom. Starts right away. Quick. Like that, they were gone.
We live in a cul-de-sac, with an island in the middle of the circle where children play, and their house, what used-to-be their home, sits at about 4 o’clock as you enter. We are across the street, just after you exit the circle, and most days I hear children from around the circle having fun with each other. Playing. Anytime the sun is shining, early or late. If I walk out the front door with my dogs, more often than not one, two, or three of them rush over to pet the pups. We get invited to plays which the kids, those young’uns, would write, rehearse, and perform.
Actually the whole doughnut, including the island-hole in the middle, is a playground for the kids and the older youth or adults who sometimes play with them. The New-Arizonianians were not the only play-ers. In fact it seems to us, who moved to this neighborhood not three years ago from a relatively kid-less cul-de-sac across town, a continuous sea of movement and sound. Balls rolling or being bounced. Wheels turning. Dogs chasing. Most of all, there is a lot of laughing. It is enough to make you cry with joy in what often seems like Battleship USA.
I grew up on a short street called Brainard, address 1715, in Wichita, Kansas. We lived across a busy street from Wichita University, now Wichita State, and our family and neighbors were of very modest means. A few years ago I had the opportunity to drive by our old neighborhood. Our house and the street itself seemed much smaller than I had imagined.
In that neighborhood, us kids played kick-the-can or hide-and-seek until after dark. Mom used an old cow bell, which I now have over our mantel, to call us home for supper or from play. It is where we all jumped forever on a giant inner tube our neighbors had put out on their front yard. When I got such a high fever that my folks had to put me in a bathtub filled with ice, it was the neighbor kids who looked through the window to see what was going on.
If Marty McFly had popped in with his DeLorean he would have been the only one with a skateboard.
I have fond, fond memories of 1715 Brainard Drive, phone number Murray-69693. It was the kids who were the threads that tied that little neighborhood together. I don’t remember any times when the adults got together at all, though knocking myself silly enough times on that inner tube might have erased those kinds of non-kid-related memories.
We were kids. Not merely children. Kids, kiddos, playin’ and havin’ fun.
This morning, before the sun is shining, our neighborhood is quiet. I miss the family-who-moved and am betting the street is muted not just today but for a while, the remnant here – especially friends-after-good-byes – feeling loss. Figuring out how to reconfigure, how to readjust the social network here.
The mouths will rise again. Young lungs will purge peals of playful laughter. Young hands will take up ball and bike. There will be mud!
Arizona, you got lucky. Don’t just sit on your saguaro, welcome this little family into your state. They’ll make your neighborhood great.