Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays, All!

Hey everyone, I'm blogging from the living room of my parents' house, at the end of a day that felt like at least three different days, each of them focused on gifts and connection.

This is the house I grew up in. We moved here the year I turned seven, when my sister was five and my brother turned three. It was the same year I moved from public school to private school, a year that saved my life. When we were growing up, the urban children of suburban parents, we roamed around the alleys and made up fantastic civilizations woven around Star Wars action figures and moving through the backstairs and basement entries and window wells of the houses on our block. Our games were sometimes as focused and contained as the garden boxes of the neighbors two doors' down, and sometimes as freewheeling as the bicycles that took us around the block and to the park across the street. There were earthworks to build in the little park in the center of the block, for matchbox cars and Death Star Droids. There were tiny pebbles of crushed blue glass that we found in a driveway on the east side of the block, and we gathered it and used it as currency. There were alliances and rivalries to be made with the slightly older and considerably poorer black boys who also found their way to our alley, as we found our way into a world structured by cultural forces we wouldn't understand for years.

This is where I grew up, a minority by numbers, but privileged by skin and class. The neighborhood looks very different now. It was marginal when we first moved here, nearly thirty years ago, but it is far from marginal now. The brick sidewalks that mark the limits of gentrification have long since replaced the concrete of my childhood on the northern and western sides of the block, where I'm most likely to walk when I come here, but today an errand took me to the eastern side, and as I was walking along I realized that I still correctly anticipated the way the pattern of the concrete changes for a driveway.

But when I looked around for the blue crushed glass, the currency of my childhood, it was nowhere to be found.

5 comments:

kathy a. said...

oh, S -- what amazing memories! hope you had a wonderful day.

Furrow said...

what a lovely post. some memories are more vivid and alive than the present.

Scrivener said...

This is a touching post.

Julia said...

Memories, memories.
My own childhood apartment is behind a number luck now, so I couldn't even take Monkey up the stairway to show her where I grew up. We stood across the street and looked at the balcony and talked about some of my childhood stories. And then we went to my first school. It was still pretty cool, but definitely made me feel the distance.

Sarah said...

Funny you should mention the childhood nooks and crannies we found our ways into--I was thinking of them myself as I wandered down the back stairs of my parents old house to do laundry in the basement. We used to know every closet and corner and where to hide and what connected with what. I haven't been off of the main drag for years now. What happened to the energy that fuels curiosity?