There is no way to explain my upbringing without first mentioning the neighborhood where I was raised; the one where my parents still reside today. For some, neighbors are merely those living in proximity of our residence, strictly a civic association, curtailed by an affable wave while retrieving the daily mail. I truly cannot imagine what that’s like, and I know I am lucky to be able to say so. Our neighborhood – which we, the children, affectionately deemed Francestown – was one of a kind, and the type of environment that Lifetime movies portray.
Inducted at birth, this kinship of kids had been going strong several years prior to my existence, thanks to my older sisters and a slew of other founding fathers. The families simply belonged to each other. Perfectly acceptable, we’d roam into each others’ homes without knocking and help ourselves to a glass of water: the truest test of welcome. It would take exactly one of us to begin the daily activities by ringing each doorbell on the block, often before 8am on summer days and weekend mornings. If you hadn’t yet eaten breakfast at the time of this call, it was simply too bad; unwise. We played all together, and we played all day – the lot of 20 of us, in our prime. And every night, without fail, we would hide behind parked cars at the slightest sign of a summoning mother. Dire measures were taken at all costs to evade the parents, prematurely forced to call it a day.
Nearly every discernible place holds a memory. The Maple that served as my first climb, since victimized by the Emerald Ash Borer. The pavement where my sister allowed a fellow founding father to tricycle over her leg in a bout of Speed Bumps – and for obvious reasons, never had the chance to take her turn. The curbside that nearly brought our 3-car wagon train to an early grave, surely due to the implementation of jumprope ‘seatbelts’ to keep us ‘safe’. The hill where we married two Francestonians the ripe age of 4. It was a sense of belonging yet to reoccur at any later point in my life. We found it second nature to be together at all times – so much, that our parents regularly planned outings to haunted houses and amusement parks, year after year. After all, that’s what family is all about.
But things change. People change, and so do their feelings. Friendships that have spanned double decades can suddenly turn brittle with miscommunication and misunderstanding. Things aren’t what they used to be anymore, but truthfully, that only sweetens each memory. I would give nearly anything to go back and play like we did, just for one day. I will always think fondly on what were undoubtedly the most impressionable years of my life, and give it all of the good credit it deserves.
Sincerely, A Proud Product of Francestown.