Tuesday, July 6, 2010

the 4th

growing up, there were 10 kids who lived on our little block, including my sister and i. my mom and two of the other sets of parents still live in the houses we all grew up in and have been there since around 1970. we share a lot of good history and have all been there for everyone's ups and downs over the last almost 40 years. when we were kids, we all walked to school together, rode bikes together, went to the beach together, celebrated birthdays and holidays together. as adults, we are all still friends and now have become friends with each others' parents on an adult level. i adore our little block.

one of the neighborhood traditions that began in the early 1980s was the annual 4th of july block party. we blocked off the street and had a "mini-triathlon" which included riding our bikes around the block, running around the block, then swimming laps in the mileski's pool. we barbecued, swam some more, got out the slip and slide, decorated our bikes and had a bike parade. in the afternoons, we'd all walk down to the park and have a neighborhood softball game with the west side of the street playing against the east side. in the evening we'd grill and have a pot-luck dinner and then the dads would set off fireworks. it was awesome, and i missed those parties when i moved away from home in the early 90s.

in the past decade, some new young families have moved onto "our" block - including my sister's family - and a new generation of kids have taken over. there are now fourteen kids on the block, including my sister's three (all under the age of 15). they all run around together, ride bikes together, go to the beach together, and the 4th of july block parties have, after a few years' hiatus, resumed again. this weekend j and f and i went back there and spent the weekend at my mom and step-dad's house and once again, it was awesome. the softball game - so much fun! swimming in the mileski's pool - f LOVED it. and then, a progressive dinner that included tacos and dessert and lots of wine and beer. f was in hog heaven, running around with her cousins and all the kids she's getting to know because we go visit every few months. it was idyllic, really. and i so envy it.

here's the thing: we can't afford to live in my hometown anymore, and we won't be able to in the future, unless we win the lottery. and our hearts and most of our friends and jobs that we love - all of that is in san diego. i don't want to move back to my hometown, but i envy it - the community, the sense of history, the kids all on the same block, the parents all helping each other out - all of that. my sister knows everyone and everyone's kids and hearing her talk to everyone and know who is who and which kid is doing what - i love that and i envy it. it just seems like an ideal situation in which to raise a kid, you know?

i am fully aware that the grass is always greener, and that everything involves a give-and-take. j and i chose the house we bought two years ago, and we love our home and we love our neighbors. but there are only 3 other kids spread out on our loooong block, and i think we run into them outside about once every two months. now, we have an awesome community of kids and parents through f's school, and my love for some of them is already so strong. i am so grateful for the people we have met over the last three years and between them and our playgroup, our lives are full of wonderful families and with people i hope f will get to be close to for as long as possible - i want them to grow up together. that being said, we are all spread out. we live a few miles apart at least. i think it's the proximity i envy, the "mom, i'm going across the street to play" thing that happens when you all grow up together, on the same block.

so here's my question: how do you find that kind of 'hood anymore? a safe one with good public schools and lots and lots of kids running around? is it about money? because we don't have much money. and i hate to think that it takes money to "get" that lifestyle. does it take luck? i think that's part of it - you luck into a neighborhood, good or bad, whenever you move, because it's impossible to really know until you move there, right? do those kinds of blocks even really exist anymore? i know they do... but how does anyone find them? we're not moving anytime soon, so this is all just me sorta thinking out loud. i think this weekend was just so damn wonderful that it got me thinking, really thinking about the kind of childhood i want for f. knowing that she will be an only child is part of it, absolutely. and maybe as she gets into elementary school, we'll start to meet more nearby families and start to feel most connected within our neighborhood. i hope so. in the meantime, we're taking steps to feel more connected to our neighbors, even if there aren't a ton of kids on our block; we're starting by planning a summer's end BBQ at our house, and i'm already excited about it. even if there will only be two other kids running around, it's a start, right?


  1. Sounds like you had a wonderful July 4th and a really nice childhood. As a kid, I too was able to walk out of my front door and find friends to play with. I grew up in the city of Richmond (Virginia) in an area that had yet to be gentrified and yet, we still played outside and had neighborhood friends.

    My kids grew up first in Atlanta and now in La Jolla and while the neighborhood(s) we lived/live in have plenty of kids, the experience I had growing up has not been duplicated. My kids were almost always friends with kids who did not live on, or near, our street. We always invited their friends over to play and vice versa. I drove to and from different neighborhoods quite a bit.

    The biggest difference though is that kids today (wow, I sound like a granny!) are way over scheduled. Most parents (though my husband and I and a few of our friends did not subscribe to this philosophy) seem to think their children must be constantly doing something. A regularly scheduled, highly focused something. I always believed that not only do kids need down time, they need time for free play, time to use their imagination. Today, even if they exist, it is not always easy to find the neighborhood kids at home.

  2. jennifer, thank you for making me feel better already. it's good to know that just because you have to drive your kids to their friends' houses and vice versa doesn't mean they aren't feeling connected to their buddies. and i totally agree about the over-scheduling! we are big on downtime in our family too. thanks again.

  3. We are doing the same thing as you to connect with our neighbors... we are planning our 2nd BBQ at our house for our block. We have about 10 kids on our block (plus others on the back side of our block) and about 5 of them oare within 2 years of Thomas.

    It takes time and effort to make those connections. 3 years is a short time. Traditions need to be made and it takes an effort by many for them to succeed. I agree with the overscheduling but it is not just the kids... we as adults have other priorities in our lives and keeping up with the neighbors is not always one of those.