“There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.”
I grew up in the perfect neighborhood. We had big front porches, sidewalks, endless backyards, a creek, woods, and orchards beyond the woods. As if that wasn't enough, we lived right beside Cornell University's NYS Agriculture Experiment Station ("the Station"), where many of our fathers worked. I had playmates all the time. In this picture are (left to right front): Jeff W., Jeff Harmon, Kim Walter; back row: Karen Walter, Michelle W., and me. I have no idea why Jeff and Michelle W. are in this picture. They were our sworn enemies and weren't even allowed to play in our yard. Back then I was told that it was because they swore too much, but I learned later that their parents were prejudiced and that my mother simply couldn't tolerate that. Aah, my heart swells with love for my mother. Kim and Karen lived on one side of us. We spent countless hours together playing Barbies, babies, and house. I can still hear the sound of their mother's melodic voice calling them in at night: "Kah-rin!" Kim-mee! Kah-rin! Kim-mee!" (She was from Antigua.) Jeff Harmon and his brother Doug were my other constant companions; they lived on the other side of us. Our games focused more on jungle gyms, capgun, kickball, adventuring, and tree climbing. We played nightly games of hide-and-seek, ghost-in-the-graveyard, and kick-the-can. There were other kids in the neighborhood that joined in regularly, but Kim and Karen and Dough and Jeff were my daily companions.
In sixth grade, we all built houses in the country and moved away. Even though we attended the same middle school and high school, our friendship bond was severed along with the physical bond. I have often pondered how strange it is that we children who spent seven years together could just go our own ways. What makes the neighborhood friends thread so much more tenuous than others?