Within one of the ripples of downtown Chicago lies Canaryville, the neighborhood where I grew up.
We had two elementary schools, Graham and St. Gabe’s. Last week, I attended the 40th reunion of our eighth-grade graduating classes of 1978. It felt like I reunited with long, lost siblings. All of us entwined for life by the same memories.
I can’t imagine a better time or place to grow up. In the 70s, kids didn’t sit around indoors playing games on computers. When we wanted to call a friend, we didn’t punch keys on a phone. After walking or riding our bikes to a friend’s home, we either stood at the front steps and yelled “Yo, … (followed by their name)” or we dashed inside, grabbed a pop, and hurried them outside.
We gathered in large groups in parks and on street corners. The weather never stopped us. When it snowed, we “skeeched” (apparently we invented this term from "skitched"). Looking back, it must have been the warmth we felt for each other that kept us from getting frostbite in frigid temperatures. Undoubtedly, the four or five layers of socks we wore on our hands and feet helped.
On hot, summer days, most fire hydrants in Chicago sprayed ice cold water on the young and old alike. Many of us witnessed neighbors walk into our homes, swoop our moms up into their arms, and drag them kicking and screaming under the spray. Life was good. Smiles and laughter bounced around The Village Inn throughout the evening. We recalled the excitement of sneaking into the circus and concerts at the International Amphitheatre. It was within walking distance from our homes so we went in groups to them all.
We went on neighborhood bus trips to Gages Lake where we had potato sack races and egg toss contests. We jammed with our favorite bands at block parties and 4th of July celebrations. We shared many “firsts.”
If anything was trending in the material world, not one of us knew it, nor did we care. We were just happy to get together; and, that’s the God’s honest truth. The only time most of us asked for anything was at Christmastime. That’s when we got our Boomboxes, Clackers, board games, and sports equipment.
Many people forego attending their reunions because they may not feel comfortable with the changes they see in themselves. I’m here to tell you, go to your reunion.
Most people are more concerned about their own changes to give much thought to yours. When you’re standing there reminiscing about the good ole’ days, they’re seeing the person you are, the eighth-grader who lifted them up when they were down, made them laugh, or shared an experience.
This is my final article as a member of the Write Team. While I found it challenging to fully articulate the messages I hoped to convey in 550 words or less, I relished the opportunity to share this experience with you and I thank you for your time. Sometimes good things end to give way for greater things to happen.
Sometimes, they don’t. Time will tell.
HELEN LAXNER lives in Granville. Her columns delve into issues affecting Americans and provoke thought to find solutions. She can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.