I have certainly done my share of lamenting certain indignities of neighborhood living. The past three years have been a whirlwind as we’ve had babies, started a business and worked seemingly without rest on our lovely old house. There are moments though, when it seems as if it is the neighborhood itself that is flavoring our lives, enlivening with sweetness and muting any bitterness.
The other day, amid a flurry of productivity, laying stone and building planters, feeding kids and corralling animals, I went to fetch the hose. I took to the the task much like a child would a chore, shuffling my feet obstinately and following a meandering path in every direction but where I was supposed to go. Three bliss filled minutes of aimless wandering in the yard gave me knew life and I made for the hose. I looped the emerald green coil over my arm. The smell of the water conjured up memories of the tree lined street I grew up on in Eugene, Oregon.
Onyx Street. After the frequent downpours we raced superballs in gutters, the plentiful rain catching in dams we’d craft from brambles and leaves, makeshift obstacle courses guiding the blurs of red, yellow and green. We never grew tired of the chase up and down the street, the wet hems of our pants racing upward, eventually soaking us past the knees and forcing us inside for snacks and warmth. Sunny days were for racing on our bikes. A motley group of ten speeds, banana seats, and big wheels. No matter the bike or the child who rode it, each was pedaled with ambitious ferocity, digging deeper to break through and inhabit the moment, become the wind.
Sheridan Street. A hot Adirondack day thousands of miles from Eugene, beneath a canopy of brilliant green leaves, I looked up and saw a father and son. The man stood behind, one hand on the seat of the bike, the other out beside him, whether for balance or to silence the world, protecting this moment, I wasn’t sure. Determination and fear waged a battle behind the boy’s wide set eyes and his mouth was set in an “o” prepared to shout for his dad to hold on. The dad matched his steps to the spin of the tires, a moving safety net, and then, every so often slowing to pause in shadows as the bike was carried by confident pedaling. I watched reverently, keenly aware of the magic I was witnessing.
Slow loops from one side of the street to the other, parent behind child. The end of an era as inevitably the steps slow while the steering straightens, and then stop entirely. A parent stands in the street beneath a canopy of green and watches a child pedal away.