Remember when … we had neighborhoods
Have you recently had an opportunity to walk through your old neighborhood? That happened to me one overcast Saturday morning a few months ago. I drove to the park with the intent to put it my normal number of walking laps and then return home. After the second lap, I just took off down Parkview Drive (in New Iberia) and began my walk through the “museum.”
As I went up one street and down another, so many memories washed over me. I passed the house where my first-grade teacher lived so many years ago. Did she go through the same routine most mornings before going to work that I did when I was a teacher? The people who moved into her house after she died probably never knew what a kind, gentle soul she was and how she made nervous first graders feel that they were special to her.
On one of the next blocks was where one of my friends from first grade lived. From then until graduation, I don’t think I ever went to his house. The occasion just never came up. I wonder what it looked like inside.
A few streets over was the house where our principal lived. He was quite a serious man, but we always had fun schoolwide activities. In those days of quite primitive technology, he would have the entire school assemble in the auditorium to watch films on various topics.
To kids from a small town, he opened up a new world of lands and cultures. I believe that my life-long love of and desire for traveling was instilled in the dark of that sanctuary.
As I rounded the corner by the school, I was struck, maybe for the first time, by one of the saddest signs of our times — the chain-link fence around the entire school yard. We never had to go through a gate or get buzzed into the building. The doors were always open during the school day. Across from the school was Simoneaud’s Grocery. There were two grocery stores in the neighborhood — Simoneaud’s and Sam’s. Loyalties were very strong on that topic. Our parents shopped at one or the other. My parents shopped at Simoneaud’s for groceries, but for me it was candy — Red Hots and Sugar Babies — and cold drinks after school.
My sentimental journey continued down Cypress Street. Or was it Pine Street? As long as I lived in the neighborhood, I never got that straight.
This was my four-block route to school in the morning and home in the afternoon. It seemed much longer when I was 10.
I passed a house where another friend of mine lived. It was a duplex. He was the only person I knew at that time whose family lived in one half of a house while another family lived in the other half. I wondered how that worked. Who cut the grass? Hey, remember, I was 10.
The neighborhood seemed much bigger. The empty lot across the street from my house where we played baseball seemed big enough then, but now it looks very small.
When I hit a ball on the roof of the house across the street from “our field,” my daddy said that was the end of my baseball in the empty lot. One of many rites of passage to come.
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