And here it comes. The summertime. Here comes the memories of being a child, riding around on the streets of the old neighborhood with a bicycle and a few friends. I have this dream sometimes. The dream itself must be an old memory. I suppose it has to be a memory because the place and the vision is real. I can see the streets of my town and the way they were to me then and this was it. This is where I grew up.
I grew up in a working class town with working class people that lived in working class homes on working class streets. I grew up here and this was fine. None of the homes were too big or extravagant. No one was too rich and no one was absolved from the troubles of everyday living. None of us escaped life, but then again, this is life and this here was a view into my life or the life as I knew it.
We came from a different time and lived in what seems to be a different place. And though generations will come after, I suppose there will be a day when the younger become older. They will return home someday, the same as I have, and they will wonder like I do. They’ll look around in amazement over how much things have changed, and yet, in the compartments of our hearts, some things will never change.
Our streets were the same as any suburban place. There were side streets and schools, a local firehouse, a library, a bowling alley, a town pool and a movie theater. There were the common stores and the favorite delis and the special hangouts where kids like us would meet every day.
We’d act and we’d pose and we’d make up our stories that would someday fill the chapters of our youth. In some cases, we’d take our attempts at youthful romance. Or more accurately as we moved towards the age of interest, we’d try to find our first experience. And what I mean is we’d try to find an experience that moved beyond the make-out sessions or just a hand over the shirt and a bra.
There was something in the air during this time of year. The school year was about to close and soon enough, our days would be absolutely filled with empty schedules. School was out and we were free to do whatever it was that kids would do during their summer break.
I have this memory of a small home on the corner of a side street. I believe the cross street might have been 7th over by Stuyvesant. There was a wooden fence around the property and a clothesline in the backyard. I remember an older Italian woman was drying her clothes and her sheets on the clothesline.
I can remember the scene in my head, which is the wind picking up and the sheets gently rising from a scoop of air that billowed through and made the sheets wave in the breeze. In my mind, I see the sheets are white. I see this as a symbol that goes far beyond the sheets themselves.
I view this as a memory of innocence. I see this as a vision of purity and I hold this as dearly as the memory of jingles from ice-cream trucks that drove through the town and kids like us, ran behind screaming out, “ICE CREAM!”.
I take this from a time before status took over and popularity ruled the social landscape. We were just kids then. We were eager to laugh and play or run through lawn sprinklers to cool off on a hot summer’s day.
I see this as a vision of safety, protected, sheltered and guarded, as if no matter where we turned, there was always the ever watchful and always attentive eyes of Mother’s love.
I can see us as we were, little, young and me as skinny as bones could be. I had buck teeth, and scraggly, mop-like hair that was somewhat the color of strawberry blonde. I can remember the way we were. I can remember the candies we’d eat that turned the tongue the colors of blue, purple or green. I can remember candies like Fun-Dip or the sugary straws called Pixy Sticks. I remember the different ice pops too, which was another way we’d beat the heat on a summer’s day.
I have this dream that takes place in a scene like this. Only, there’s no one around. The streets are empty. There is no one outside and all the homes have this strange appeal to me; as if each home is only a spiritual memory; as if this entire dream is a remnant of my past and held like a tiny station in my heart, which is gone but not forgotten.
I can see this corner, which I was telling you about with the clothesline in the backyard. I can see the sheets blowing in the wind, slowly, as if to emphasize the purity of this moment; emphasizing the warmth of Mother’s love or the comfort of something easy, like, say, the first real glass of lemon iced tea for the season.
I am here at this place as a spectator. I am not sure why this corner stands out in my mind. I am not sure what the significance is nor do I have any other specific memory of this place in my town.
I suppose this thought might have been triggered by a recent trip back to the old neighborhood. I drive through once a month on the way out to the studio to record one of my shows.
I pass the old houses that were part of my teenage routine. I sometimes pass the old schools that once looked huge to me. Only, they seem so small to me now, — so insignificant, so temporary and yet this seems so telling about the intimations of my youth. I suppose this is the thing with intimidations; everything is much bigger than it is.
I sometimes pass the houses of my old friends and the friends who’ve passed away. I like to go to the park on Prospect. This place has a lot of meaning to me. This place also reminds me of a dream I had about my old friend, Tommy Lee. I had this dream after his funeral. We were over by the benches and Tommy was young again, youthful and playful, smiling, and no longer in turmoil. I go here to pay my respects to him, Mike L, Dorian, Craig a list of other kids from way back when.
I make sure to stop at a fence in front of the park, which to you or anyone else would be nothing more than just a fence. But this is not about a fence. This is about what happened at the fence. This is about a life-altering choice that fortunately changed the direction of my life. Some of my friends chose to go right. I chose to go left and had this not been so, I don’t know who I’d be right now.
I say this all the time and I will say this again now. There are no friends like old friends. No one ever forgets the kids from the old neighborhood. No one forgets the places they hang around or the things that they did. No one forgets the summertime antics from their childhood nor do we forget the impact of our summertime lives and the way things were.
I have these memories. I have these places, which I keep in the compartments of my heart. I have this dream, which I value so much because I see this as a sign. I identify this as a symbol of comfort and a map of protection.
This was a long time ago. I know this. But once, there was this thing we called youth, — and before we grew, before there was status, before popularity took the stage, there was a town and a place where it was safe for us to be kids.
I swear, this is like a voice to me. This is a reminder that there is always a home. There’s always love for me. And there’s always the comfort of Mother’s love, no matter where she may be.
Mother; a symbol, a sign of life and the comfort of love and the hand, which rocked my cradle. Or better yet, perhaps this is as the poem by William Ross Wallace, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”
And so it is. And so it was.
Sleep well Mother Creation. Sleep well the spirit, the mind, the body and the soul.
Forever and ever