Something about the signs of our long awaited summer brings back amazing memories of my childhood and the neighborhood we lived in.
My early childhood years were spent in a ‘hood’ like most would envision when reading the word. South of San Bruno Avenue in San Francisco, next to a gas station in an apartment on Quint Street is where my mom and I got our start. Of course, since I was a kid, I did not know (or care) that it was ‘the hood.’ We had a great neighbor and my classmates lived close by.
Once we ventured to San Mateo we landed in a ‘hood’ that was much different, not to mention greener than the one we had left. Lawns in front of houses, trees and even a creek, and I could walk to school. Summer days and evenings in front of our home on 36th Avenue were just like you see in a television series or movie. Kids playing, riding bikes, parents visiting in front of their homes after a long day of work.
Days seemed to rush by then, there was so much fun to be had in one short summer day. And yes, I was one of those kids who had to come home when the streetlights went on. In summer, that made our days seem magical as they seemed to stretch on forever. Often times many of us would return to our portion of the ‘hood’ when the lights came on, only to remain out front for another 45 minutes when our parents would call for us.
Sun burnt skin, slurpees and some candy from the local convenience store are just a few of the things my mind conjures up.
In my early adult years the whole ‘hood’ concept and its value was lost on me. I worked a lot, ate out just as much and more evenings were spent out than at home. Location mattered, of course, but the search criteria was much different.
As I’ve grown older, I seem to have a new appreciation for living in a quality ‘hood.’ This could partially be due to the fact that I have learned what it means to be a ‘neighbor.’ Admittedly, it was not something I solely embraced when I first came to Oakdale. To say I was ‘guarded,’ would be putting it nicely. We moved to a new neighborhood when first arriving here and everyone was so happy and friendly.
I found it odd. They must have wanted something or needed a favor. I mean who acts like that … just because. I was jaded.
I soon learned they were being neighborly. I had no children at the time and my husband was overseas in the US Navy. These ‘neighbors’ soon became friends and by the time my oldest son was born … they were family.
This neighbor concept slowly began to grow on me. So much so, that I wrote a column once about our neighbor Ben. He lived ‘next door’ to us, when we moved to the country and taught me what life was like as we shared stories over our barb wired fence.
Our most current neighborhood we have nicknamed ‘the Way,’ for no other reason than that it is the last part of the street name. Now with children in tow and an active life, ‘the Way’ has blessed our family with not only amazing neighbors but also friends. Friendships for my children and their mommy.
Prior to moving to this ‘hood’ we had several share what a great street it was, naming a laundry list of families on the street and following that with adjectives, which were all complimentary.
Living there I have learned, that all I was told is true. It is a street filled with amazing people of all ages. More importantly, living on ‘the Way’ has taught me a great lesson about ‘hoods.’
Logistically speaking, we tend to tell ourselves that certain parts of towns are better to live in because of ‘X’ reason. Perhaps for some this holds true. Now, looking back, comparing the first ‘hood’ of my childhood to the one we are in I realize something valuable. It is the people who make the ‘hood.’ It is not the houses, the lawns, the trees or even a creek. People are what make neighborhoods. If we do not all step out from our comfort zone on occasion we are essentially robbing our ‘hood’ of its potential.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.