Jackson Court was an idyllic little street to grow up on in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Twenty houses lining a cul-de-sac with a park at the end of the street. The park had swings and jungle gyms, tennis courts, basketball courts and a softball field. The houses were brand new homes built in 1961 and 1962, everyone who moved in came to the country from the city. Some came from New York others from North Jersey cities, excited about their new lives in suburbia. The kids! Every house had children spanning ages, there was someone for everyone to play with on Jackson Court.
A highlight of each year was the annual 4th of July Block Party. Although in these days there was no “homeowners association,” the adults created committees and made plans for the big day. It was a family fun day like no other!
At some point in the mid-morning, cars would block the top of the hill that began the street so nobody could drive down. Tables and grills were set up in the circle at the bottom of the hill, where all the fun was to be had. Everyone participated, no house was left out. There were burgers and dogs, corn on the cob, salads and soda, along with beer and anything else people were drinking. We had egg tossing contests, water balloon tosses, and three-legged races. There were softball games and arts and crafts. There were even prizes and goodie bags for the kids.
Of course, there was an occasional spat among neighbors or family members, but never anything that created an issue. We were all there to have fun. Marshmallows were toasted at the end of this day when everyone put sweatshirts on and sat outside to watch the fireflies.
As I pulled out of the driveway at my parent’s home, my childhood home on Jackson Court, yesterday, these memories flooded back to me. I recall the games vividly and even remember one of the prizes I received for winning a three-legged race. It was seashell charm bracelet. I can recall one of the older “kids” on the block, Peggy, giving it to me with her broad smile and sweet voice letting me know how well I did. I felt my tears well up and a lump in my throat form as I drove away. How I miss those simple days when I had my family around me! My parents and my brothers, my aunt, my uncle and my cousins all living on that street, all together all of the time. All I had to do if I wanted to go outside and play was walk out the door and knock on someone’s door. There was always someone to hang out with, ride a bike with, go play on the swings in the park. I never felt alone. I never felt lonely.
In fact, when I had surgery at five years of age, the hospital had me brought home in an ambulance. I asked if they could put the siren on as we went down the street. The driver did, and behind the ambulance were my neighborhood friends running and cheering that I was home. I remember them all crowded around me as I was taken out of the ambulance and placed in my dad’s arms. That moment still warms my heart.
When these moments in our life happen, and we are so young, we may not realize how they are probably some of the greatest moments of our lives. These are the moments that stay with us, that leave an indelible mark on us for the remainder of our days
Every time I drive down Jackson Court, I become nostalgic. I recall summer evenings where almost all the kids on the block are out playing hide and seek, red rover, and any other game possible. I can see the stick ball games in the cul-de-sac even though there was a softball field only a few yards away. These were city kids who moved to the country, stick ball was all they knew. I can see my best friends when I was young running through each other’s yards before there were fences separating families. I can see rained out bar-b-que’s where the tables and chairs were set up in the garages, so the party could still go on.
The friendships created then have never truly waned. Of course we all don’t see each other like we once did, but we recall each other with such love and affection that when we do connect, it feels as if we never left. It certainly still feels like home.
On this 4th of July, I beckon those days and wish for that simple life. I remember with such fondness the fun and frivolity, the family bonding and the love. A wonderful childhood, on a street that knew how to be a neighborhood.