Friday, March 7, 2014

My Street

When I was a little girl I did not have any siblings to play with at home, the household consisted of me, my mom & my dad. Most of my cousins were a few years older than me and the contact we had with the ones who were closer to my age was infrequent. So I had to entertain myself throughout the days that I did not have school, especially since TV at that time consisted of 2 channels, and the kids’ program was one hour per day.
So I played house with my dolls where I (the mom) would hold my doll’s (the daughter) hand and go shopping throughout the house. I played with my Barbies where I would build a house for them (with pens & pencils on the floor of my room) and go through a day in their life with them. I would spend hours drawing and coloring, creating houses, villages and people on paper. These activities took a large amount of my time, but during the three months of summer with no school and no planned activities I was still left with time to spare. I was also left with the need and desire to socialize with other children my own age. To fill that void I turned to the neighborhood girls who were my age.
We lived on a quiet, small, dead end street where everybody knew their neighbors, so playing in the street was as safe as playing in your own back yard. Therefore, every summer day we would plan to meet in the street to play, talk, scheme, laugh and have a blast together. The neighborhood girls and I became playmates and friends throughout many many summers, as some of us (including me) had been living in our homes since our birth!
Going out to the street to play was the high light of my summer days and I looked forward to it all day. We were allowed to go play in the street mostly in the evenings after the heat had subsided. Because our parents did not like us to play in the hot Iranian sun or to disturb the neighbors’ afternoon naps! Even though at times we were able to get away and go play during the day, our usual meeting time was around 5:00 in the evening. We would meet in the street and it would take only a couple of us to start talking and playing for the rest to hear the sound of fun and join.
We had a blast in the street where we played all kinds of games, you name it, we played it: Active games like hide & seek, hop skoch and tag; sports like dodge ball, volleyball and badminton; word games (using chalk to write on the ground). We rode bicycles and played with ropes, we used a water hose to cool ourselves down, we would snack on our favorite dried fruit. We had phases of favorite games that we would become obsessed with. At some point we were even very much into calling the other world to talk to ghosts. We even did mischievous activities such as ringing people’s door bells and running away or writing on the walls of people's homes with chalk.
When we became tired and wanted to take a break or at the end of the night we would sit on the hoods of parked cars or the corners of the street and just talk, talk, talk and talk. We would talk about everything and anything and laugh and laugh. The thought of going home did not even occur to us until our moms had to call our names multiple times to go home around 9:00 or 10:00 at night. There was something about sitting under the stars in the hot summer night with the street lights flickering and sharing secrets and laughing that was intoxicating. Sometimes when the moms came out to call us in, they would start talking to each other and that would buy us more time with one another.
We knew every detail and corner of that street, every tree, every dent in the wall and every bump in the ground. That street was our second home and we were not only each other’s friends, but we were each other’s family. The street and the neighborhood girls were a big part of our lives at that time.
We spent many summers in the street with one other, we played all the games ever invented out there, we even invented some of our own. We talked about everything under the sky and had the best time any kid could have. But mostly, we grew up together, we learned about life, we learned about friendship, loyalty, tolerance, kindness and compromise; we even hit puberty and learned about boys together.
My last year of living in that house and going to the street was less about playing and more about talking about the neighborhood boys. It was less about jumping up and down and more about dressing cute and walking around. We used to hang out at the end of our dead end street, but we had moved to mostly hanging out in the front of the street in order to see the neighborhood boys walk by. Times were changing and it was exciting.
One day I had to leave my comfortable, fun and recently exciting environment and move away, never to go back there to play again. It was hard to say good bye to my house, my street and my friends. A big part of my life was suddenly over and I was not ready to say goodbye.
The first time I went back to our street, after four years of being away, we still had and stayed in our old house. Some of the neighborhood girls still lived there and I saw them, but they did not play or hang out in the street any more. The last time I went back to visit our street, after twenty three years, none of the neighbors lived in the street any longer and our house was not ours any more. The street seemed much smaller than I had remembered it and I felt like a stranger in it. Strangers were living in all of the old familiar homes and the cars that were parked in the street were too new and shiny to even think about sitting on their hoods. There were also no children around and no one was playing in the street, there was no sound of laughter or screaming to be heard. All the homes had bars in front of the windows and balconies which made them look like prisons. Had the safety of the neighborhood left with us too? It looked like that street was never again used for fun and play after we had left.
Standing there and looking at our street, at my street, brought back many memories from my childhood. It made me very grateful for those fun times and those great friends that I had. It also made me realize that it was a special bond we, the neighborhood girls, had which was not very common.  I may have grown up with no siblings to play with but I never felt alone, thanks to those girls in my old street.