"When you're a jet, you're a jet all the way..." Okay, we didn't carry weapons or engage in street dance-fighting, but we had a few rumbles in the alley, and more than a few dance contests in the basement. When things were good, they were very good...and when things were bad, they were awful. Through all the fights, and business-ventures, and trips to Ford's Market to buy penny candy, my summers with this motley crew are the very reason I consider that period of my life a success. Added into the mix, they completed the picture of a perfect childhood. The kind you read about in books.
My mom was a babysitter, and as a result, I rarely suffered from the dreaded condition known as "playmate deprivation". Up the street, a grandmother watched her grandchildren, right next to that were new neighbors with two boys, and next to our house was a girl my sister's age. Needless to say, there were plenty of backyards in which to escape, plenty of quiet spaces in which to hide, and plenty of road-access to set up our Kool-aid stand. The proceeds of which we would walk right down to Ford's Market and use to purchase candy.
When you get that many kids together, fighting is inevitable, and sides are going to be chosen. Enemies are going to be waiting in the bushes for you to ride by on your bike and attempt to throw pinecones through the spokes of your tires. Someone is going to get punched in the back as they try to run away. There will be screaming...and there will be vows to never speak to each other again. There will be countless proclamations of "hate", sometimes written in capital letters on the sidewalk, so the villain has to see it every time they ride their bike over it. Funny how, even such dramatic expressions seem so innocent in comparison to the types of problems which invoke the very same passionate reactions in adults.
When we got along, which was the majority of the time, we were always on some kind of adventure. We were making up stories to scare the little ones, or racing our bikes through the cemetery, or traipsing through the backyards of the neighborhood looking for the perfect place to settle down for the day. I remember one afternoon, searching for the end of a nonexistent rainbow, we needed the pot of gold so we could buy three packs of water balloons instead of just one. Our candy of choice were Atomic Fireballs, of which there were always several in our pockets. I remember spending one summer day at the library with my cousins, Nate and Matt. We were picking out books to read for the summer reading program, which would track each book you read until the big party at the end of the summer. One of us...well, maybe all three of us...decided to knock out about seven "Choose Your Own Adventure" books in one afternoon. Looking back, I'm pretty sure that was cheating, and I'm also pretty sure Matt was the winner of "Most Books Read" that year. One thing, though, unless it was raining, we were usually outside. Not because we had to be, but because we wanted to be. That is, until Scotts moved in...they had a Nintendo.
When it did rain, us older kids were banished to the basement, which was where we held our dance contests. My best friend and I frequented "Summer Lovin" and "Opposites Attract". We became pros at setting the cassette tape at just the right spot, and we quickly mastered the art of dropping the needle of the record player on the correct song. Sadly, though, with all the practice I had during those dreary summer days, in our basement, which smelled of a glorious combination of must and fabric softener (my favorite smell, I wish my basement smelled that good), my dancing, to this day, has never managed to improve.
I still have dreams at night about that house and that block. In these dreams, I'm always moving back into a place unchanged from the way it was when we left more than fifteen years ago. My reason for returning is always because I have decided the place I was living before is not "home", as if the house itself had been sitting there waiting for us to decide to come back someday. In reality, it no longer even slightly resembles the house I love, the house that holds such a significant piece of my history. For some reason, however, I've held onto this place as my one and only true home. Even now, as the owner of my own little house, I go back to West Northmarket when I close my eyes. I feel as though my time there at least partially shaped me into the person I am today. My overactive imagination, my appreciation for the simple pleasures in life, my endless search for a place to call home. While I can't go back to the old One Fifty-one, I will always have the original in my memories and my dreams, from a time when an afternoon pasttime was a book of scary stories found on the shelves of the library, read to wide-eyed children sitting on the edge of the big sandbox in the backyard.