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Saturday, June 28, 2008

In the Day

We grew up in a small town 60 miles north of Detroit. Our street was paved but the next one over was still a dirt and gravel road. We once had a small forest area north of us and wetland areas east and west. We once had small wild animals living in and near the neighborhood. Yes, that was a long time ago....

Those were the days when you could harvest cattails and garter snakes nearby. Tumbleweeds would occasionally find themselves going down our street. We could go to nearby fields and capture a great variety of insects for those elementary school collections. Our little town wasn't always all concrete and parking meters.

We also seemed to have a fair amount of orchards, gardens, and desirable fruit trees in and around our little neighborhood. Our only problem was that these were on other folks' property. Well, not a problem for bored hungry boys, actually....We didn't have to liberate the cherries from Miss Ryan. She happily allowed us to pick from her tree. Miss H's plums could be snatched as we cut through her side yard to get home. The pear tree "in the
weeds", the over-grown lot next to the Blue Water Bridge, produced fair pairs that anybody could pick.

The good stuff was in the gardens and orchards at the end of our street and we had to be sneaky to get those treats. We would hold our harvesting runs in the dark of night. We were quick. We took only what we could eat at that moment. We were raccoon raiders.

I especially liked those peaches by streetlight after a successful night of "cooning".

I liked the old neighborhood and all those moms, dads, and kids that gathered at our house, Jimmy's, or Kay's. We had "block" parties in the days when you knew your neighbor and if you got out of line they'd tell you and your folks. We had bonfires in the back alley, picnics, potlucks, and us kids produced a couple of talent shows. We had a couple of kids versus dads football games. They ended when the parents begged off after some broken bones and torn ligaments. In the dead of winter, we built ice rinks in our yard or in Kay's.

Heck, when I think about it, aside from some childhood traumas, it was great growing up in small town America. Jeff's mom removed a staple from a thumb and bandaged a few other wounds when my squeamish mom could not. Kay's mom used peanut butter to get gum out of my hair. Kay's dad took the training wheels off my bike and patiently taught me how to ride a bike. Jimmy's dad called me "Dennis the Menace" and will always be one of my favorite "uncles". Mom once told me that at age four I traveled down the alley one day to get "Uncle Jack" to wipe my arse. Mind you, we weren't neglected -- we just had so very many surrogate parents. We called some of them "Aunt" or "Uncle".

We had the luxury of being "socialized" by our neighborhood society. We had none of this new age's aversion to getting to know the neighbors. Yes, we had fences and thick hedges separating our yards, but there was always an open gate or path to real true friendship. We had real neighbors.

Yes. We grew up in a different time.

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