The Neighborhood

Last week I had a dream and upon awakening, I realized it has to be one of my versions of utopia. In it, I was back in the neighborhood I grew up in, with all of the familiar faces that have since moved away or passed on. It was summertime and lots of people were outside on their front lawns just socializing with each other. I walked from house to house, lingering as I went, to converse with all of the people who shaped and colored my world in some way. I was sad when I woke up – already missing my old friends and their families.

I believe my dream stemmed from a real longing for a sense of community in my neighborhood today. Times are so different than they used to be, though. Both parents are working in most households, and everyone seems to do their own thing. I long for the bonds that were created with people in the neighborhood of my hometown. I grew up in Willingboro, NJ, formerly known as Levittown – a town designed to be idyllic and it most certainly was, even until the mid-to-late-80′s, in my opinion. I’ve got such fond memories: playing kickball in the middle of the road with all the neighborhood kids in the summer; going door-to-door every Halloween and knowing which house had the good candy and which house gave out the toothbrushes and fruit; walking to my friend Laurie’s and Cheryl’s houses as a young teenager, chatting with random people as I went; hopping the fence in my parents’ backyard to hang out at “the plaza“, spending hours in Riccardo’s buying cigarettes from the vending machine and eating greasy pepperoni pizza by the slice; learning how to drive in that same plaza parking lot; and in winter in the plaza parking lot, using the huge snow mountains that were created by the plows to have snow wars with all the other neighborhood kids; attending the annual Christmas party at Mrs. E’s house that we drove to even though it was just around the block; walking to the parades for Memorial Day and July 4th, hanging out with neighbors and shooting the breeze as the various acts came through; falling in love for the first time with a boy who lived around the corner.

Today, that neighborhood is a shadow of its formal self, with a lot of the long-timers and original owners long gone. I drive by the houses of my former neighbors, sadly acknowledging all those who used to live there and the inevitable change that comes with the passing of time. It’s bittersweet to go “home” today, but I cherish it nonetheless. I don’t know if my parents will always live there, and I could one day have to ride by the house of my childhood and yearn to be able to go inside. I shudder to even think about that possibility.

21 Responses to “The Neighborhood”

  1. Martin says:

    The house of my childhood was taken apart piece by piece and shipped to Vermont. I planned to drive by its new location someday, but at this point I doubt I ever will.

  2. Amy says:

    Well that’s an interesting story, Martin! Never say never…

  3. kat says:

    I know what you mean. I have such fond memories of my hometown, but when I went back to visit, it wasn’t even the same place anymore.
    I wish that change had never found it’s way there, it was a perfect place to be a kid, raise kids, now it’s a town trying to be more than it should be.

  4. Karen says:

    I moved a lot because my dad was in the military. I never wanted my kids to have to leave their friends behind and have that icky feeling of having to be the new kid.

  5. Flo says:

    I grew up in Jersey City, NJ and while not as surburban as Levitown (where my aunt used to live :), it too brings back some great memories. Summer evenings playing stickball till the sun went down. All the adults sitting outside talking and watching us play. Walking to get the newspaper at midnight for some special reason I forget. I understand that assessed land values in Jersey City top $1 million now. Wow, times sure change.

  6. Lisa says:

    When I go home to see my family, it isn’t the same. The people who use to live next door moved. Instead, we have a window peeker (my mom sent him to jail for looking in our windows!!!!). He is mean to his kids and is an ass to my parents. In the fall, he blows his leaves into my parents yard. In the winter, he throws his snow in their driveway.

    The worst thing is that the family who use to live there and my family were the best of friends and this is who we got to replace them.

  7. skeet says:

    I had really mixed feelings about selling the old place when we brought my dad here to live with me in Hawaii. There was no practical way to keep and it had been allowed to run down during the years that my brother was living there “taking care” of Dad (grrrrrrrr … I won’t go into that nightmare.) The neighborhood looked the same except for a few homes that had changed paint colors or fencing, but the feel was not the same at all. Too quiet during the day because no one stays home anymore, too many new faces, too little community feel. the world spins and we must move on.

    Nicely told, my friend!

  8. Amy says:

    Some people say, “You can never go home again.” I do believe this is true to a certain extent!

  9. Amy says:

    Karen, we’ve moved our kids a lot – partly due to the military and partly because we were so flaky once Rob got out. I have a lot of guilt over it, but we plan on staying put for a good, long while now. :-)

  10. Amy says:

    Ahhh, the good live, eh, Flo? I do miss those days…

  11. Amy says:

    Lisa, OMG on the Peeper!! Do you watch Boston Legal, by any chance? ;-)

  12. Amy says:

    Skeet, very true – life goes on, as they say.

  13. I went back into our childhood home, and it was a mistake. Oddly enough, the wallpaper in my parents’ bedroom had not been changed (30 years later…)That gave me a real pang.

  14. Julie says:

    I always wished that my parents were still together and lived in the same house that I grew up in. Do you still have your bedroom?

  15. Amy says:

    lattégirl – how come it was a mistake?

  16. Amy says:

    Yep – it looks way different than it did when I lived there, but the upstairs is all guest rooms now. :-)

  17. Cynthia Blue says:

    When I was a kid in Chicago my Mom knew all the neighbors. Now my husband and I hardly know any of them. It is kinda sad.

  18. suni says:

    I miss that sense of community, too. We had it like that as children. Now we don’t. Now I am scared to death to let my son roam around the corner of the building let alone chat with people down the street. There are very few that I socialize with here, and that is just barely.

  19. Angie says:

    Just reading your post actually made my heartrate go down! I kid you not. I was just freskishly calmed by your descriptions. :)

  20. Deb says:

    We were just talking about this last week, (my family) about how growing up in Pennington, NJ, we knew all our neighbors, we played kickball and tag, and we had block parties and everyone came and knew each other. It was a tight community. When we moved to Levittown, PA…it was becoming more and more 2 working parents, and people were busy. In years living there, we barely knew our neigbhors…and today, I know maybe one neighbor to say hi to.

  21. [...] The carnival is being held at Skeet’s this edition. I submitted my previous post on the neighborhood for inclusion. [...]