We moved to Larchwood Court in 1983. It was a quiet suburban neighborhood except at 10 PM during the summer hours when we could hear the fireworks for King’s Island each night. Our house was perfectly placed so we could watch fireworks nightly from our living room window.

It took a while before I met all the neighbors. I met Nancy soon after moving in since Jason and Joey were close in age. Then I found out there was another Nancy next door to the first one. Seemed right. Joey was pretty much the only Joe we had up north even though Mom was Jo – she was always Mom or Nana to us. There were two girl Jos and two boy Joeys and one dog Joe in the neighborhood, so two Nancys was fine. (There were also two Freds.)

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The second Nancy became one of my closest friends on the street. That makes the street sound a bit divided and it was nothing at all like that. We were all together and we raised our children en masse yelling at whatever little miscreant was close to hand and celebrating each milestone of each darling child as they reached them.

Houses built in the late 1970s were all built for privacy. Each one of us had a deck or porch or way to be outside – in the back of the house. There were no front porches, no way to socialize as a group. Those houses were not built with socialization in mind, but privacy.

The owners before us had placed a flower box on the side of the house. They used it as a vegetable garden. It was about six feet by ten feet or so and would have worked well for that. I tried flowers in it since I’m not much of gardener. Eventually, I had Steve cap the thing and it was wonderful. Right at the T of the streets, we could all sit on the side deck and watch the kids and be adults together.

And so we did. There were a bazillion stories told on that deck and bazillion memories created there. Each day Fred would come home from work and ask us if we knew what was in USA Today today and we would hear about the latest news. The snake in the drain was trapped and so it was removed via a shop vac. Beautiful story.

One balmy spring Sunday, all the heathens were on the deck drinking coffee and Baileys. We were on our fourth pot of coffee at least when darling Becky came by to join us. Knowing she was a tea drinker, we offered her a beverage anyway. And she asked incredulously, “Why would you put bay leaves in your coffee?” All we need to say is “bay leaves” and we can all still laugh.

Nancy and I spent hours upon hours on the deck. We discussed everything under the sun. She looked at things from the liberal perspective and I, of course, from the conservative. She colored my way of thinking as I changed hers. We were able to disagree vehemently and yet remain friends.

While her mother was dying of a horrible ovarian cancer, Nancy stepped up, even though her schedule was already filled to overflowing. She took care of her mother. I tried, in some small way, to take care of her during this time.

I was invited to her seizures and taught a very small, very young Alex how to help Mommy when she had one and how to call me if he needed me. I was invited to her heart attack, too. I preferred the seizures.

The stories of our kids growing up together are flitting through my mind right now. I’m not sure which to include, which would make sense to anyone else. I can see us (Nancy and me) at the dining room table before computers making math problems for some psychology thing she was doing for school. Night after night, trying to get them perfect – and it would be so easy today with technology as our friend.

I can see a tiny Alex having dinner with us because Mom was late at school and him telling me he ate “dween beans” and turning his nose up at my broccoli. I can see the entire neighborhood riding bikes in the circle, Fred throwing a bag of hot dogs at a car going too fast on the street. I can see the blow-up doll in a boxing ring, tied to the chimney, and leaning against a newly built wall across Gina’s driveway. I can see some clown driving off to do a party. I can see a spray painted dead pine tree festooned with decorations.

Mostly what I can see is a million different moments of all of us living a life together, raising up a bunch of great kids who turned into wonderful adults.

The shoes in the picture? Why would these shoes do anything for me today? When Nancy’s mother died, there was no one to take her shoes. Nancy’s feet were two sizes too small. I inherited the shoes. There were some spectacular shoes in there. These are the only ones I have left. My fancy Jew shoes. Lovingly cared for over the years. Moved around. Still comfortable. I hope both Marilyn and Nancy can appreciate how much they mean to me.

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