Thursday, January 15

the ditch

I lived in a suburban neighborhood growing up. All houses, pre-sidewalks and fences. Yes, sidewalks and fences had been invented, smart ass, but our block just didn't use them. Back then. You know, the olden days. Kids played in the street and had the whole of the neighborhood backyards to romp through. There were a few fenced yards, but those people generally didn't have kids and were, in our minds, turds on a log. No fun. (We were convinced one woman was a real live witch and then horror of horrors, my parents hired her to babysit us one night. It did not go well.)

All of our happy childhood was contained within that one block. All our friends lived there and all our time was spent there. The ends of the street were off limits and venturing beyond was sure to earn you a week inside. At minimum. It wasn't too much of a temptation, mind you. At one end was a corn field where we were sure the farmer would run us down and chop us up into bits with his combine (think Frank from the movie Cars) and at the other end there were some woods that just seemed spooky and full of those trees from the wizard of oz that yelled obscenities and threw apples at you. So, we were generally content with our block and found plenty of adventures to be had within these bounds.

Within these bounds, running down the back of the backyards was the ditch. The ditch was glorious. Overgrown with cattails, green and brown stuff, and a thick black mucky bottom that smelled like sewage if you were ever unfortunate enough to get any part of your body stuck in it. It was a pure and bountiful source. A mountain spring. Of fantastic ideas and worldly adventures.

For the budding naturalist, the ditch was where you could find tadpoles and dragon flies, butterflies, and mosquito larvae. Brown warty toads and crickets galore. And a great place to throw rocks or stir up the muck. No fish though, although we spent many long hours sure that we were going to bring dinner home.

For the escapist (that's me), the ditch was where you ran away to. I'd pack up my 'kerchief with food to last until I could harvest enough milkweed and nectar for my next meal, tie it to a stick and hit the road... or ditch rather. "So long family! I'm fed up with your madness, with 8 o'clock bedtimes, and your measly cookie rations! See you in my twenties, if you haven't died of heartbreak from missing me so much!" Sometimes I'd swing by my best friend Jamie's house (she is the STAR of the next story) and bring her along too... we'd have a glorious time.

Parental note: When you're shopping about for a place to raise your brood, and find yourself turned off by the cesspool, the scrap yard, the garbage strewn woods nearby... think instead of the precarious FUN to be had and endless, countless, hours OUT OF THE HOUSE that your children will willingly spend. So there may be a few incidents... isn't that what childhood is for?


  1. I still *long* for the days when I was outside getting dirty all day, knew it was time to go home when the streetlights came on, and if I got thirsty, I drank from the hose.

  2. Anonymous5:14 AM

    Childhood has changed from "our day." However, I feel lucky to live in a small neighborhood where it's still safe to let my kids roam, ride their bikes and play night tag.

    A rarity in today's crazed society.

  3. I wonder now how my parents ever let me do all the crazy things I did without losing their minds. Sigh!

    Loved your Amalfi post - please do post other pics. We had a tremendously lovely time there nearly two years ago now. I do hope you get to go live there.

  4. I think we knew better then how to be kids and have real fun. And hey, I'm one of those turds on a log with no kids. My yard is open though: I trap more kids that way...

  5. Introspective! Reminds me of my childhood days at good 'ol Mumbai: unprotected, rustic, close to the roots; very different from the environment in which my children're growing up.

    Btw, I've a recent post dedicated to you. Hope to see you soon...

  6. Childhood does seem to have changed, doesn't it? But I wonder if the change is because of real dangers that need protecting from or if it is more because we have become more fearful. Fear generated by media and new reporting. I read once that the US, for instance, is a safer place today than it was 50 years ago.

    PL: Exactly the same here

    Sujatha: More Amalfi to come

    Braja: I agree... and I think our parents knew how to let us be that way. About being kids... not about you being a turd.

    Naperville Mom: Funny, I grew up not 20 miles away from a town called Naperville, but I wouldn't recognize it today. You slay me, thanks for the dedication.

  7. Anonymous2:15 PM

    Your entire "escapist" paragraph could of easily been from my own childhood. I used to "fun away" with my German Shepard on a monthly basis... too funny!


...and you may ask yourself, did I get here?