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It was another hot and humid day in Hoffman Estates. The sun beat relentlessly down upon the pavement, and the cement glimmered and shone from the heat. “What should we do today?” I mumbled to my best friend Kevin who was sitting in the cold grass in front of his house.
“Ughh, I dunno. There’s nothing to do and its super hot outside.” We were only eight years old in 2000, and there was nowhere to go other than the neighborhood that we both lived in. We lived two doors down from each other, and basically did everything together. Our small street was loaded with twenty other kids of our age, some fun, some mean, and others who never came out of their houses. It was summer, and all of us were outside from early in the morning, until the streetlights went on at night. Our street was a narrow and winding road, with trees lining the edge of the curbs, all the way up and down. There were big, silver, streetlights hovering over the street, bearing down upon us, indicating when the day’s fun was over. The street was situated on a hill, and from where Kevin and I lived from the bottom of that hill, we could see the entire neighborhood. When it was sunny, the light bore down from the upper half of the street, and glimmered all the way down into the depths were we usually hung out. The street was our home, our sanctuary, and the place where we spent our entire childhood. We were the street and the street was us. Without the other, neither one could survive.
“Well, we could go see what the others are up to,” I suggested, “They’re probably playing street hockey though. You up for a game?”
“Sure, whatever. Anything’s better than just sitting here,” Kevin answered. We walked two doors down to my house and picked up some hockey sticks and rollerblades. Then we continued up the hill towards the top where the cul-de-sac that we played hockey in was. I looked around and noticed that the sun was quickly setting in the sky. We didn’t have much time before the lights went on, but any time that we had to play was valuable, so we continued on. As we reached the top of the hill, sure enough, we saw the rest of the neighborhood there, just about to start another game.
“Hey guys, what’s up?” I asked.
“Where were you guys?” our neighbor Brad quickly asked, “We’ve been looking for you all day!”
“Sorry man, Kevin and I were at the park and then decided to go fishing for awhile.”
“Well hurry up and get ready. We don’t have very much time to play.” The games always went quickly. My friend Brad lived on the cul-de-sac, and he owned the two hockey nets that we played with, one at each end of the cul-de-sac. I played goalie every time. I was unstoppable. Even though I often wanted to play forward and score all the goals, I realized that my team needed me to be the stopper, and I obliged.
In a matter of minutes, the sun disappeared beyond the horizon, out of reach from the neighborhood, resulting in overwhelming darkness. Suddenly, there was a flickering from above; we looked up and the street lights had flicked on. The game was called, and all twenty of us gathered our stuff and began walking home. “Hey, tomorrow everyone meet in my tree house at ten and we’ll plan another mission,” I shouted to the disappearing crowd. We were always coming up with “missions.” Whether it comprised of spying on the neighbors, or building a fort, all the neighborhood kids were in on the adventure.
“Okay I’ll be there and I’ll make sure that everyone else comes too. We need to plan something big tomorrow,” yelled Brad to me as Kevin and I were walking down the street. We walked for a couple minutes talking about the hockey game before we reached my driveway, where we parted ways.
“Well, bud, I’ll see ya tomorrow,” I muttered as I walked towards my garage.
“See ya at ten,” Kevin replied gloomily. We hated going home, yet we were tired and knew we had to. I opened my garage door, and was partially into my house when I turned around briefly and glanced outside. The lightning bugs were out and they glowed in the darkness that engulfed the neighborhood. I took one more look at the streetlight in front of our house, which was in full effect now, entered the house completely, and shut the door behind me. Another day was gone.
The next morning, I was awakened abruptly by the sudden sound of garbage disposal from the kitchen beneath me. I scrambled for my glasses, and then squinted at the clock. It was already 9:30 am. I sprinted out of bed, threw some clothes on, and ran downstairs as fast as I could into the kitchen where my family sat around the round table. As I entered, I was greeted by the solemn faces of my mom and dad. Something was clearly wrong, but they did not say anything right away.
“Come sit down and have some cereal,” my mom requested in a fake-sounding happy voice.
“What wrong with you guys?” I asked impatiently, “You’re acting like somebody died or something.”
“Well, honey, it’s not quite that bad. Actually, it should be happy news!” my mom exclaimed, “We didn’t want to tell you before we knew for sure, but its official now. We’re moving.”
The words that came out of my mother’s mouth after this statement were unintelligible to me. I didn’t need to hear any more. I immediately stormed out of the house and sprinted down the street to where our neighborhood connected with the one next to us. When I reached the end of the street I stopped. I couldn’t go any further. I sat down in the middle of the sidewalk for an hour, until finally a wave of realization hit me, and I knew that this was truly happening to me.
Not even a week had passed before we learned that our little house in the neighborhood had sold and that we were moving in a matter of months. In fact, we were moving before the summer was even over. When I heard the news, my feelings of devastation returned once again. Even when I learned that we were only moving about a mile away, it made no difference to me. Whether it was one, or a thousand miles, it was all the same. I was leaving the neighborhood; my friends; my best buddy; and most significantly, the beloved street that I had spent my entire life on. I had never known another place other than my street, and I didn’t ever want to.
I was gone in a month. I said my dreaded goodbyes to the friends that I knew would never be as close to me once I was gone as they were when I was only a couple doors down. I knew I would always have Kevin. Best friends are forever, but it was the others that I would miss the most.
As our car turned onto the main road of the new neighborhood, I immediately felt an air of emptiness that surrounded me. I felt completely exposed in this new place; there was nowhere to hide. There were almost no trees at all, and there were big gaping holes in between each house. In the whole place, there were only about fifteen houses, but each one was like a towering skyscraper compared to the houses in our old neighborhood. In the middle of the neighborhood, there was a large empty marsh, filled with dead plants and unspeakable creatures and bugs that made noises during every second of each day. But despite all these changes, the most significant for me was the lifelessness of the neighbors. Coming from a place where everyone knew each other, having neighbors that were nonexistent was strange. And to make it even worse, there was only one other kid in the entire place that was my age, and I felt utterly alone.
A couple of days after we had gotten settled, I was sitting on the couch in the family room, when to my surprise, I heard the doorbell ring. I went to go get the door, and when I opened it, the kid from across the street was standing there on my doorstep. He wanted to know if I could come out and go play in the pond. I hurried to get my shoes on and anxiously scrambled outside. We were out playing for hours. We explored the entire pond, and had a blast the whole time. But despite all the fun, that night I sat in my room depressed. The pond wasn’t as great as my beloved neighborhood and all my friends inside it. There was no replacing what I had lost. I realized that I had to move on, but my childhood would never be the same as it had once been.
In the months and years that were to come, I felt my childhood drifting away, and the slow transition into adulthood was already upon me. There were no more street hockey games, no “missions”, and certainly no tree houses. Although Kevin was still in distance of a bike ride, we replaced our days of fishing and spying with long, dull hours of TV and video games. It wasn’t long before we started junior high, and experienced for the first time an immeasurable amount of homework, passing periods, and different teachers for every class. But just as we began to feel like the fun that we had one known was being sucked out of our lives, we started to find new ways to have fun and realized that were benefits to growing up. We discovered girls, went to dances and to parties, hung out with friends on the weekends. We snuck into movies, began using cell phones, and went to amusement parks. We realized that no matter how fun and great our childhood was, growing up was a necessary stage of life, and it really wasn’t all that bad.