The Old Neighborhood

November 29, 2010
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When one thinks back on their childhood, there are almost no words to describe it. Better times, unforgettable, reminiscent; all these terms come close, but never really give one’s true feelings. It is something different to everyone, and to me, the perfect term to describe it all does not exist. Thinking back, I can still remember the old neighborhood. There was the long sloping street that ended in the cul-de-sac, with its gleaming, white houses that stood out vibrantly against the deep green of the grass and the palm trees and the blue of the California sky behind. I can almost see young kids on bikes or scooters or skateboards, racing down the hill at incredible speeds. I can almost hear their laughter as they spun out of control into the grass at the bottom, shaking it off, and standing up unharmed except for the fresh grass stains on their knees and elbows. Then they trudge back up the steep hill and do it all again. Whenever I think back, it gives me a feeling of easier times, when no one had a care in the world, and where each day was a new exciting mystery just waiting to be unraveled.

Houses wrapped around the cul-de-sac like a sweater, keeping the street warm with its cheerful and amiable residents. Except for the house with the old couple who yelled at us kids when we so much as walked past their driveway, the cul-de-sac was teeming with activity every day. Every now and then one would find a basketball, scooter, skateboard, or some other toy left in the street from that day’s adventures that had been forgotten as the children came home for dinner. Lawns on just about every house were streaked with brown tracks, left from countless bike tires racing through. The first house in the cul-de-sac was belonged to me. Looking up above the garage one could see the lights always one, for above the garage was my room, and I always seemed to neglect to turn the lights out. I was particularly fond of my room because it was in the front of the house, giving me a vantage point from which I could see the whole street, and at the first sign of children’s activity I would spring up from my bed to investigate. My dad’s white pickup truck was always parked in the driveway, because our three-car garage was filled with my mom’s Expedition, the maroon sides streaked with scratches from negligently passing by with a bicycle; and the interior filled with as fine layer of sand; even the most high-powered vacuum could not remove it after a trip to the beach. There were also my dad’s old classic cars. Every once in a while there would be a new addition to the family; a shiny red Corvette or a brutal off-road Jeep with tires that were taller than I was. I was never allowed to touch these though. The curb in front of my house was the territory of The Duel-ee, the monster of a truck my dad owned. Six wheels, two in the front and four in the back, showed off its power. It was in this that my dad would load up with my friends’ bikes and take us bike riding somewhere in the mountains. On one of these trips I lost one of my front teeth, when I flipped my bike forward and hit my mouth against the tire of a rider in front of me. I still slide my tongue across my front teeth every time I think about it.

My friend Hamish lived across the street, and according the to the law of kids, who had no means of travel other than parents who could be too busy or just too lazy to take their kids places, whoever lived close to you was your best friend. When Hamish moved in from South Africa, we quickly became inseparable. I remember whenever one of us got a new Lego set we would meet at one of our houses and build it to perfection. Like myself, however, he moved out of the neighborhood long ago.

Holidays were always celebrated to the fullest. In the blazing, sticky California summer there would be block parties on the Fourth of July, with Jolly Jumps, the aroma of hamburgers on the barbeque, laughter, and then the display of dazzling fireworks that showered the sky from a close by park. Then fall would come. Trees displayed stunning displays of red, orange, yellow, and brown. The feeling that the holiday season brings was fast approaching, stirring up a small flame in everyone’s heart, which was fed and grew each day closer to December 25th. At Halloween us kids would all dress up and go trick or treating. Every year one of my neighbors down the street set up a haunted house in his garage, with monsters and ghosts and ghouls stationed outside to scare anyone that passed. Then in the winter the streets would be glowing with lights. I remember driving around just to view the spectacular displays people had set up. Through the condensation on the car window I would see simply decorated houses: white strings of lights with an occasional reindeer or snowman, and there would be more elaborate houses: intricate patterns of multicolored lights hung everywhere imaginable as well as cheery Santa Clauses and nativity scenes that left me in awe as the glow of these houses faded around the corner. On Christmas mornings, I couldn’t wait to open all my presents. In the encroaching light of day my sisters and I would sneak into our parents’ room and wake them. After my dad rubbed the crankiness out of his eyes, we sprinted downstaris, where stockings would be first to open by a warm fire. Although the morning sunlight was approaching, there was no need. Our souls were lit up brighter than the sun itself. Then came the presents. We reached for them so fast that abundant pine leaves would shower the gifts and the floor. There would be a bike with a bow stuck on the front, or a bright red electric guitar. My parents would tell me to open a small rectangular package containing Playstation games. “But I don’t have a Playstation, what are these for?” I would ask. Then they would hand me another present, and I would open it slowly, the realization of its contents coming to me little by little as I tore off the gift wrap.

This place was more than just a neighborhood to me. It was my home, my life, my childhood. I will never forget this place that gave me so much, and made me who I am today. Whenever I return to visit, I see the now lifeless street. I cannot help but wonder what happened to it. What happened to all the kids constantly playing? Where are the tire tracks in the grass, and the hot wheel racetracks in the dirt? What happened to the adventures at the start of each day? Although I cannot see them, I can remember them and all the wonderful times that came with them.

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