I was five, I think when we moved into the house that I eventually grew up in..
I knew there were some other kids in the neighborhood .. and my brother and I were excited to explore. The neighborhood. New friends. The woods behind our house. The rope swing over the pond. The sewer treatment plant (that at the time, didn’t have a fence around it). Disgusting, I know. But at that age, the dirtier, tougher and grosser we could be it seemed, the better.
We had a blast. It was small town living at its best.
Growing up, I would almost always choose hanging out with the boys versus just about any girls. I don’t ever remember anything different. In part, because there were just fewer girls. But I wanted to play football or baseball, golf, run and jump and build forts and climb trees, bike everywhere I could and go into that one old house we all thought was haunted and our parents told us never to approach. Not just walk by and wonder. There was no playing dolls. In fact I still remember having to apologize to a girl in the neighborhood we first lived in because I ripped the head off one of her dolls. I’m not sure I meant to, it just happened. I think. I had little interest to sit around and watch tv. Or be giggly and put on make up and talk about boys. No thank you. Not at that time.
And the one girl who lived just a few doors up the street, closest to my age, felt exactly the same.
In getting to be fast, best of friends with Amy ..
I also became very close to her family.
Even her brother who used to site me in the eye of his slingshot, chase me home, hide in the woods knowing I was heading home to scare the bajeezus out of me, lock me out of their house if he knew I was coming or once I got in, not let me leave. And then find a way to put his underwear over my head.
Perhaps I got close to their mom, Peggy, because she felt terrible for me and it was out of pity over all of that.
But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. Peggy was just kind of, like some of the others I have mentioned the past couple days .. mom to all who knew her. The door was always open. Food or a meal to be shared. Drinks in the cooler. There was always time for a late night chat. A hug. A phone call. A walk around the block. An invitation to join whatever it was the family was doing. Always. I loved her and still do so much that at times, I believe my own mother felt very slighted. Because Peggy was in many ways to me a resource I wasn’t sure how to completely find in my own mom. Someone I could talk to about anything. Not feel I was revealing too much or be judged. Or who would ground me for any of it. There was just always sage advice. A kleenex. Understanding. Empathy. Love. Laughter.
And Cheetos. There was always great junk food in the cupboard up the street .. stuff we rarely had at home. (A tradition much to my daughter’s dismay I now carry on. Very little junk food ever in house.)
I would usually stay to a point where – we knew the phone would ring. And when it did, we would all look at each other and say, ‘my mom’, and chuckle. Sure enough, my mother would be on the other end of the line, when she could have shouted up the street, saying .. “Ten minutes, honey. You need to be home in ten minutes.”
I hated leaving, always. And still do.
Peggy and her beautiful family have always made me feel at home and been home to me as much as I have a home anywhere.
And because my parents sold our home years ago .. when I get back to my hometown, which isn’t often enough ..
I find myself mindlessly, always pulling into their drive.
So much has happened recently I want to write more about but I don’t want to say too much. What I do want you to know is the difference you have made in my life. My time here. That I am reminded everyday of the importance of time together and family and good health and paying forward so many blessings like time together and laughter, a door always open and so much love to be shared..
I love you dearly. So many do.
I think I may go today and buy Cheetos for the neighborhood …