(photo by Kathy Davis)
They generally were hilly, up and down in every direction, making our play more challenging in summer and more fun in winter. They hurt us when we tripped, leaving red stains where we fell. They were uneven and balls took crazy bounces. We marked them with chalk, then hop-scotched on them. We jumped on them, over ropes while singing crazy verses. These were ‘the streets of our neighborhoods’.
They were yesterday’s outdoor ‘home screens’ where we played, running with our legs, peddling our bikes, throwing balls and playing other games with friends, both boys and girls. They led us to parks, schools and downtown. We were always moving on ‘the streets of our neighborhoods’.
From early morning to dusk, we were the ‘gangs’ who gathered there for games, games that we created ourselves with balls, sticks, piles of leaves or mountains of snow. They provided us our own place to roam and explore until the calls to come home were heard, on ‘the streets of our neighborhoods’.
We were the noisemakers, youngsters covering our eyes against a tree, counting to a hundred, then warning, ‘here I come, ready or not’, seeking the hiders and chasing them like a hound after a fox. With youthful exuberance and constant yelling, we ran each other down in games of tag, catching the fastest one last through sheer exhaustion. Wild games, played on ‘the streets of our neighborhoods’.
Today, as an adult, I wonder, where is all that unbridled energy? Where are the boys and girls with knuckles and knees scraped and bruised from running and pushing and falling and doing it over and over, day after day? Where is the happy sound of kids physically exerting themselves in their made up play? Where is the noise that used to make older people open their windows and yell, “go play in front of your own house”? I’m older now and have earned my turn to yell…to be an old curmudgeon, but the streets are empty.
‘The streets of our neighborhoods’ were places where kids met without adult supervision. We planned, organized and executed the days and weeks activities on our own. It was informal and efficient. The streets were a safe place to be. We settled disagreements without intervention. Our minds, and most importantly, our bodies were actively involved in our play and we flourished, playing outside everyday. We fell fast asleep at bedtime and awoke energized to do it again.
Some of my best memories are street play with friends from the neighborhood. We had winners and losers, but the play itself was paramount. Nothing stopped us. Only growing up could do that…on ‘the streets of our neighborhoods’.
To Joey, Lincoln, Tommy, Buzza, Jackie and a slew of other kids who played, then grew up, on ‘the streets of our neighborhood’.