Sometimes, with no seeming provocation, the neighborhood of my childhood appears full blown in my mind. I don’t just see it, I experience it – the atmosphere, the tempo of the time, the people.
In those days, things stayed the same for a longer time. We lived at a slower pace, mostly in our own neighborhoods, where living graced us with its warmth and familiarity.
Our neighborhood was filled with one-of-a-kind stores that seemed to carry everything we wanted, only a short walk away. You could touch the merchandise, smell the fresh baked goods. Everything didn’t come in a pre-wrapped plastic bag. And the store owners, who took pride in their wares, would talk with you. If you asked the butcher for a certain meat, he’d cut it fresh for you. The next time you visited the store, he’d remember you and ask, “how did that pot roast turn out?”
I see my old school and remember Mrs. Marchesani, the teacher who gave killer research homework. We didn’t have Google to get exactly what was needed in a few seconds. No, no, we had to look up the subject – in either Encyclopedia Britannica (if you were lucky enough to have one) or the library. I loved the library – shelves brimming with books that you could take home or sit down at the old wooden table with the stack in front of you. That was really research. Working to find your information in multiple places and putting it all together locked it more into our minds than two Google minutes could ever have done.
Instead of computers with which to play games alone, we played games with other kids at each other’s houses: Jacks, Monopoly, Pick Up Stix, Old Maid, Chinese Checkers, jump rope, yo-yo, Slinky – to name just a few.
Television was in its infancy then. We had three channels and that seemed to be a whole lot of entertainment. It didn’t take over our lives. And, since everyone watched the same thing at the same time, it enhanced our connections and actually became a group experience. Everyone watched the programs at the same time, e.g. Uncle Miltie on Tuesday night and Sid Caesar on Saturday night.
There was just something special about life in that time and place. It was simpler, more enjoyable and less complicated – before electronic connections began taking the place of human connections. And I think that’s the provocation for “sometimes, the neighborhood of my childhood appears full blown in my mind.”
Ellen Van Houten is a Village resident. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.