Saturday, May 14, 2011

When Nonnie and Drago were Growing Up

We had it all. Down the street was Mr. Swann’s place. He was a farmer, but we didn’t mess much with the farm itself. On his property, safe from development, was a pond, a stream, near-by woods and further away, scarier woods, Jerry, an old, white, sway-backed horse, and bad-tempered Snow Geese that thought the pond belonged to them. There was a dirt road that led to the forbidden sand dunes-fantastic hills of sand and gravel that the grown-ups called a quarry. Rich People, the Piersals, had a big house on a hill.  You got there by a long, shady lane. All these places were grown-up free almost all the time. Dunno. That’s just the way it was then.

Our various mom’s took sightings of our crowd from kitchen and upstairs windows, and I suppose at least one of them had a good idea where we were most of the time. All the Ranch style and Split-Level houses had yards, of course, but playing in some kid’s yard was for days when one of us was in trouble or had to stay close to home because we were going someplace with our parents, or because we had a new toy that we weren’t allowed to take out of the yard. Our mothers had a relay system for calling us when we were out of range of their voices.  Sometimes we ignored the calls, but not often. An older brother or sister sent to find us, or, the worst, one of our parents showing up, meant we were going to “get it.”

We were a gang of maybe fifteen girls and boys. No babies and no big kids allowed. Crybabies and bullies didn’t last long. Unless the weather was really awful, we played outside. Winters were for skating on the frozen pond, sleigh-riding on Piersal’s hill, snow-fights from snow forts, and building whatever we wanted to try for on a particular day. One great winter our dad built two dinosaurs and a giant bear in the front yard. There was a lot of snow in North Jersey that year.

The three other seasons were for roaming our neighborhood and playing, usually without toys, or only a few. My brother Drago was our Cecil B. DeMille. He’d direct the games and dole out the parts. Tarzan was a good summer game because the pond turned into a swamp, and we could swing across the stream on this rope someone’s big brother hung from a tree branch. Every summer there’d be a group of us who’d try to build a pirate raft for floating across the pond. One time the boys actually built a raft that would hold about five kids without sinking right away. Mostly we just got “soakers-” slimy, muddy shoes and socks which meant trouble when we got home. Drago excelled at organizing Circus in the summer.  He’d be the Ringmaster, and we’d all pick skills to hone. My best tricks were fence-walking and doing hard stuff on these two metal poles our dad hung between two wood supports and put up next to the swing and sand-box he built, and built to last, in our back yard. They are probably still there, behind our brown Split-Level on Allen Ct.  When Drago felt we had trained enough, he’d organize a parade though the neighborhood to advertise our Circus. Seems to me things generally fell apart after the parade and we rarely got as far as the actual event. It was hard to get everyone together at an exact time in those days, even for the kids who could tell time.

“Indians” was a good fall game, played in the woods, of course. All-season games were Spaceship, (we had a great fallen tree trunk, split in two big sections) Robin Hood, Soldiers and Nurses, Peter Pan, Swiss Family Robinson, and of course, bike riding and races of all kinds, even plain running.  Piersal’s lane provided us with a world-class scary Halloween challenge, and they also held epic 4th of July parties every year.  The Piersals were great Rich People.

Eeek! Going way past my usual blog length here. Sorry. It’s just that living with Drago again brings childhood back, you know? It’s just that we live in a fairly safe, suburban neighborhood, but we don’t see many kids outside. We don’t hear moms hollering out their back doors. Cars, rather than kids, have the right-of-way on the streets around here. We didn’t know we lived in kid-heaven, but we did. Good old Allen Ct. Thanks Mom and Dad.


david coyote said...

... that was the way we played ... imaginations were our toys, and outside, Momma Nature, our stage. No electronics - no gadgets - just us and what weather allowed.

Good memories, Cuz.

Bill Frank said...

I feel this from head to toe and it is so healthy and so enriching.

Bill Frank said...

I feel this from head to toe and it is so healthy and so enriching.

Chris Bartholomew said...

Kid-heaven, so true. Thanks for this, memories are a haven I think in this day we live in. Wonderful blog.

Karen said...

I loved this post!..

I only remember the Big Old House with the Orchard, and then the lovely woodlands home in... Tuxedo?