Monday, April 12, 2010

Fall Back Down

Today, I had to take a drive to my mother's house. She is out of town and I go over and check mail and water plants and keep an eye on things. It's a beautiful day so I put the sunroof back and cranked the tunes. I had my Ipod, as always, and this song came on as I was approaching my old stomping grounds. I used this song as my Facebook song, this morning, and when it came on as I was driving through old familiar roads, it just sort of spoke to me.

"If I fall back down, you're gonna help me back up again
If I fall back down, you're gonna be my friend"

I love these lyrics and in my ever changing moods, they really do ring true when you drive through my old neighborhood and surrounding areas. I always knew that our neighborhoods were special but I know that, even more, in my adult years. I think it took maturity to look back and reflect and feel the love. It was special and I was glad to be a part of it.

Our area was called the West End of our town. It wasn't made up of neighborhoods, per se, but it was more like a burrow of sorts. I actually did live in one of the suburbs but the West End encompassed so much more area. We all centered around our little school that housed grades K-8. We were one of three schools that fed into one high school. Our school was the smallest of the three and maybe that is why we all built such great and lasting friendships. There weren't a lot of us so we all sort of banded, together.

My mother still lives in the house where I grew up. I get to go to the West End quite a bit and I love driving around all of the little roads where so many of my pals used to live. I can drive up and down each street and have a million stories of what happened on each street when we were kids. I can still picture the parties at houses when parents were away, the houses that used to have moms who would always invite you in and give you something to eat, the houses that had moms most likely to call the police on us, the cool moms, the uptight moms. It was the 70s and moms were always home. Dads always were at work. Kids rode bikes in huge bike clubs that we formed. There was a little corner, locally owned, grocery. We would all ride bikes to the store and buy candy and sodas and hang outside of the store as more kids rode up on bikes.

There was a baseball field where the boys and girls had their games, each summer. I can still remember all of our uniforms. The school is still there with a few updates and changes. There was a wooded area, behind the school, that was great for exploring but it was torn up so that houses could be built. Still sad if you ask me...I wish they could have fought harder to preserve that area.

It seemed like even on the most boring days, there would be something we could all find to do. Nobody knew a stranger in our little area. You could stop and shoot the breeze with just about anyone and you always felt welcome. We grew up using the sun and the moon as our signals that it was time to head home for dinner or for the evening. We were not a generation of cell phones so once we left the house, we were out of contact with our parents. But, in the West End, you always felt safe. Parents watched out for you even if you weren't their kid. Parents did that back then. When my dad left, I was too embarrassed to even tell my friends. Other parents knew, of course. But I didn't want to talk about it to my pals. One dad sensed that and never said a word about it but always made sure I had a ride to a practice or to a game. It's just what the parents did in the West End.

Once we all were older and gave up our bikes for cars, we still all drove around the West End. Still stopping at houses. I think we became more annoying to some parents, at that point. We had cars and we blared our music and in the summers, a party could always be found at a couple of the houses.

We laugh now and label those of us who were born in the West End, the originals. Then we call the ones who moved in, later, the newcomers. The people who lived just out of the West End's territory but still went to our school, we tease them and call them posers. Mr. Man was always a honorary West Ender because he started out in the West End, moved to a different school in our district, but always came back to hang with his buddies in the West End.

The older I get, the more that place makes me smile. Driving through the streets is like flipping through a scrapbook of memories.

Yesterday, some old West End buddies and I were laughing about some funny things and it really made me think back. Some of my lifelong friends started out as kindergarten friends in the West End. We are in our mid 40s, now. That speaks volumes. I feel so lucky that Mr. Man and I share so much of a rich history that started in the West End.

And, as a shout out to all of those guy pals and Mr. Man...not a lot of neighborhoods can boast about this but I my eyes, the guys that came out of the West End or started as a West Ender are all the kind of guys that you want in your corner. Good guys, all of them.

If you were to fall down, they would all be right there to help you get back up. Everything we learned, we learned from the West End.

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