When I was a child:
My earliest memories of my mother and father are in Charlotte, NC where I was born. We lived in a white house on Lombardi Circle, and around the curve on Lombardi lived my Grandfather and Grandmother. Freedom Park was my backyard.
I remember moving to Kinston, NC somewhere around the age of three, and we lived in a huge white house that sat across from the end of Greenmead Dr. on Cunningham Road. The House was a two story, complete with wasps and mice. It sat on a very busy road which also led towards my dad's place of work, DuPont Chemical Co., which was on located on Greenville Hwy. We lived in this large house for a short while until dad moved us around the corner to 907 Candlewood Drive.
This house was much smaller, probably around 1000 sq. ft. It had three bedrooms, a living room, a small bathroom, and an eat in kitchen. There was a bay window and a small porch off the living room entrance where the milk box sat which, might I add, is not big enough for your little sister to sit in without having to have the fire department and the policemen shake her out of it.
This is where my earliest childhood memories begin that are the easiest to remember in complete vivid detail. The place where life lessons were not only fun to learn at times, but life lasting as well. In this house I learned that heating grates in the floor would burn the skin off of your feet. Matches caused huge fires and bunk beds were the cause of holes and scars in your bottom lip.
In this neighborhood I learned that snakes make people run into trees, and pee in their pants. Turtles bleed and die if you drop bricks on their shells, and old ladies make the best cookies in the world.
To this day, you can Google Earth this address and see the woods behind the house. In those woods we forged bike trails the would put BXM, 30 years later, to shame. In those woods we had forts that defended America from the "Chinks, Dinks, Japs, Krauts, Red Commie bastards and most especially the Indians."
I had one older brother when we moved to Candlewood Drive and gained two younger sisters. We were basically raised by our live-in maid Lucille, and taught life lessons by my dad.
We owned a Zenith BW TV that was pale green and cream colored that sat on a silver stand. It had rabbit ears and no remote. Dad had two remote controls though, one called Mike and the other called Chris. I learned from watching this TV, on November 22, 1963 that parents cry, and on February 9, 1964 some guys from Liverpool England invaded America and wanted to hold our hands.
My next door neighbor was a big kid named Randy Gaston or Gadsden I really didn't know how to spell back then, and down the road lived the Ballentines and Garners, maybe Gardners. Around the corner lived the Wagners. There was Dick and Ann, Mary Kay, Richard, and one or two more, I just can't remember 50 years later.
My first school was a private Catholic school that was on the corner of Old Snow Hill Road and Dixon Street. I went to kindergarten there which was combined with the first grade class and the Nuns wore penguin costumes and hats with wings. They smacked your knuckles with rulers EVERY time you lifted their costumes to look underneath.
We used to walk to school everyday. If you Google Earth this address today, you can see trails leading to the back of this school that have been walked into the earth for over 50 years. There seems to be a huge apartment complex where a big cornfield use to be, right off the SW corner of the wood line that ran along Candlewood Drive.
Travel further down Old Snow Hill Road and hang a right onto E. Highland Ave and go about 4 blocks. Here on the left, I learned that when your dad throws you or babies off the 10m springboard at the Community Swimming Pool, that used to be where Emma Webb Park is today, it is necessary to kick your feet, hold your breath, and paddle your arms all at the same time, or you will inhale a lot of water. It is also advisable to curl up into a little ball when you are falling or it hurts some times when you hit the water. At this pool I also learned that moms occasionally go swimming dressed in shorts, shoes, sunglasses and watches that were not waterproof at the time.
In this town we had a Sinclair Gas station and a Rexall Drug Store. People walked on the sidewalks and kids rode bicycles everywhere. Families went to the park together and the government made us walk through lines for sugar cubes, and needles that left ugly round scars on your arm or leg.
The purpose of this reflection was brought about yesterday when I actually sat back and thought about all the changes that have occurred through the years that have in a sense destroyed the great things that made growing up in America fun, and meaningful.
Jan and I walked around our new neighborhood this past month trying to meet our neighbors. We took a Birthday Card to an 86 year old lady who spent some time talking to us but who stayed on guard the entire visit.
We introduced ourselves to people working in their yard, or walking down the street. They were friendly enough, but it was easy to see that they were wary of the strangers that just started talking to them. I apologized to a neighbor when my dogs barked at him when he walked in the yard of the house he is renting. He ignored me and even was rude when I approached him. He waved me off like I was invading some precious space that nobody was allowed to tread.
What has happened to people in America? Where did the spirit of community go? Where did the idea and principals of being kind to your neighbor, and do unto others go? I am not sure, but I have to say I do not like what I see and I do not want to give up my mental images of a community, neighborhood, neighbor, or home that becomes part of youth, and helps to shape youth into the communities that we will all live in someday.
To correct the things that are wrong in our society it has to begin at home. Expanding to the neighbors, to the neighborhood, and finally to our communities as a whole. People just need to become more involved in community affairs and stop relying on someone else to handle the problems.
Parents need to buy their children bicycles and teach them to ride them responsibly. Stop taking your kids everywhere. Make them get out and walk, ride a bike and drink water from a hose pipe. Rather than buying an XBox 360 buy them a baseball and glove. Buy them a rope so long they have to get other kids in the neighborhood to help turn the rope.
Vote out busing kids to school. Let's get rid of the ugly ass yellow school buses and go back to community schools. If diversity and quality education becomes a problem in community schools, then bus quality teaches and schools supplies to the schools instead of children. It is safer and ads to a community by making parents and children more invested in their neighborhood school and community programs.
Above all watch the kids in your neighborhoods to protect them as they explore the world around them. They have important things to discover and they need to do it in a safe environment. Invest in parks, and community centers to give them a place to hangout in their free time.
Sure some are going to get in trouble but that is called growing up. Morals are not their responsibility to seek out and learn. It is the responsibility of the adults in the community and more especially at home to teach them these so they can pass them on to their children.
Bottom line America, if you want a kinder and gentler America, it starts at home and it starts with our children. At the same time it starts with your neighbor, your neighborhood, and your community.