Just one half of a neighborhood street holds almost all of my childhood memories. The better half (or, at least the hilly half) of Dansk Court not only had The Big Circle (known to arguably more sophisticated people as a cul-de-sac) but my best friend M.
Before M’s family moved in across the street, there was a lot of quality only-child alone time to be had. I was always content playing on my own, but one day the peaceful summer quiet was dreadfully interrupted. I had gotten brand new Fisher Price over-the-shoe roller skates for my 3rd birthday, and I loved them dearly; however, a 3-year-old doesn’t have the best balance ever. My mom solved this problem by getting me a 2-ft-long, ¼ inch diameter dowel from the craft store that was dubbed “Kelly’s Skating Stick.” I used my skating stick like a hiking stick, I guess, but regardless of how silly I must have looked, it did the trick. Well, one day I was happily shuffling around the driveway with my skating stick when, out of nowhere, the Doberman from two houses up came barreling down the hill at me and knocked me over. I was left with dirty Oshkosh B’goshes and skates in the air, wheels still rolling, silent, hardly knowing what to do. Obviously I cried after that pregnant pause. It was that day that I learned to fear dogs. Years later, our next-door neighbors had a wiener dog that they kept tied up outside, and I refused to walk on the same side of the street as that dog. You never knew what could happen if that vicious beast came untied.
Growing up, I spent a lot of quality time with the Stragands, our neighbors and my parents’ closest friends at the end of the street, who I remember best for always having Jell-O Pudding Pops. There are two stories that the Stragands still love to tell new neighbors at block parties—one of a memorable toddler rebellion and one tragic tale of my first big girl bike.
I think the only time before age 13 that I made my parents beyond furious was the Nasal Spray Incident. Mom and Dad were dressed up, ready to go out to dinner, and I was staying home with a sitter. Before leaving, my mom had sat me on the kitchen counter to give me a few squirts of nasal spray to alleviate whatever illness I may have had. I wasn’t having any of that. I pushed her away a few times, and once I realized that she was still persisting, I got the heck out of there. I shimmied off the counter and ran like my pants were on fire out the front door and down the street as fast as my 3-year-old legs would carry me, past the Stragands and my dad sitting on their porch, through the intersection, and down the other end of our street. It had only taken moments for Mom to fly through the front door, hot on my tail, delicately running in her heels. She was, as my grandma would say, “mad as hops.” My dad scooped me up and carried me flailing back to the house, plopped me on the counter, and said, “Now, Susan, this is how it’s done.” Not so much, Dad. I wouldn’t let him do it either, and he got so angry that he threw the nasal spray across the kitchen. Kelly: 1, Nasal Spray: 0.
Another time that all hell broke loose while my parents chilled on the Stragand's front porch was the demise of my first bike. I had spent many hours riding around The Big Circle on my pink-tired, training-wheel-bedecked first bike, which eventually resulted in a bald front tire with a node sticking out. On my bike’s final day, I rode it down the hill to the Stragand’s. I took a load off and had a puddin’ pop, and when we were done, my dad went to push my bike back up the hill. Unfortunately, he rolled that bulbous node over the pavement for it’s last time, and my pink tire popped. Obviously it was Daddy’s fault. It was even more Daddy’s fault when Toys ‘R Us didn’t carry pink tires to replace it with. I had to deal with white tires, and I was bitter forever after.
Luckily, before too much bitterness set in, M’s family moved in across the street. The first day I met him was Easter, when my mom forced me to share my gummy bears with him and his brother. M soon became my best friend. We watched Thundercats together, played He-Man and She-Ra, and made plans for the future. We told my dad one day that M and I were going to get married and live in my parents’ guestroom. He was going to beat up bad guys, and I was going to do all the cooking. Sounds like a plan. We spent our time playing outside, making forts with the boxes from his family’s new washer and dryer, and playing Legos in front of afternoon cartoons.
My first day of kindergarten, I wore a gigantic blue paper triangle on a string around my neck to denote that I was a part of the Blue Triangle table. This became a problem when I saw that M was wearing a huge red square around his neck. After kindergarten, M moved to a private school, and we started to drift apart as I met more of the little girls from school in our neighborhood. Boys suddenly got cooties, and it was way more fun to walk over to J’s house and play in her pool, or to play Barbies with K.
When M returned to public school, he was suddenly in a band and was a stud in all the other girls’ eyes. We didn’t hang out anymore, and I think it’s because, at least on my part, he was still M, my future husband and the little boy whose parents took us all to see “An American Tail” for his 5th birthday. Friendships may fade, but memories don’t, and it’s hard to shake off what you knew of someone to let in who they now are. M's family has moved away, I no longer live at home, and The Big Circle has been devoid of children who know it's proper name for years now. Let's just hope they learn that the best sledding is not on our hill, but in The Pit at the other end of Dansk Court, that you can cut through to 4 other neighborhoods on your bike if you look hard enough for the trail, and that the cemetery our neighborhood backs up to really is haunted...according to the older kids.