Interestingly, I grew up on a street called Lakeside Drive but it was actually near a river. The Narrow River to be exact. It was the location of my family’s house for the first twenty years of my life in Rhode Island. As I grew older, I always wondered what possessed the community planners to go with Lakeside versus the more realistic like say, Riverside. Maybe the decision was to go with the less truthful street name because that section of the Narrow River wasn’t actually that narrow. It was pretty wide. Wide yes, but still not round like a circular lake. Who knows what they were thinking. I just find it very inaccurate. I wanted it to be an actual lake. Truth in advertising. I would have actually preferred to live on Ocean Road but my parents didn’t much care about those kind of specifics. Being Depression Era children, they were pleased and thankful to have a nice big house near water, even if it was a body of water with a confused identity.
It was sort of a dare for the neighborhood kids to attempt to swim across the river and not get worn out, drown or something. My middle sister, Lisa, was easily able to swim across this section of the river. I never attempted it. I wasn’t much of an athlete like her when I was young. In the Winter, the river wouldn’t completely freeze over because it was both fresh and salt water. Yes, you guessed it. There was a neighborhood dare for this too. Who was brave enough to walk out to the middle of the river? Bonus points if you skated out there. The river was at the bottom of a steep hill. There were several paths from Lakeside Drive down to the small neighborhood swatch of beach. Another Winter dare, could you get your sled to go fast enough down one of the paths so that you ended up on the iced over river? Could you get off the ice in time before it would break? I have no idea what we were thinking as kids. Obviously, we had some bits of logic and intelligence missing. We were kids being kids. Funny thing is we were allowed to attempt such feats of illogic back then. I don’t know if the same could be done today.
I’ve not yet written one word about my house yet, have I? I think it’s because I’m feeling nostalgic for the freedom kids in my neighborhood had back then. Homes were great. There were many great houses in my neighborhood. Yet if it wasn’t snowing or raining, you were pretty much told to get out of them or there were plenty of chores to be done. Who wanted to do chores? I didn’t want to do more than my share. That’s a fact. Just make sure to return quickly when called from the back porch door or when the street light came on at night. Don’t make mom call all the neighbors to hunt you down!
We weren’t micromanaged as children back then. In fact, just the opposite. We were practically free ranging chickens. I think our parents would have been amazed at the territory we covered as kids back then. We were told not to leave the neighborhood or cross the big roads. Few of us listened. Even a goody-two shoes like myself could cover major territory when I wanted to explore. It was nothing for us to walk several neighborhoods in either direction. Add a bike into the mix and we made it to the center of Narragansett or even the town next door, Wakefield. We were free.
If there were any dangers, we were thankfully unaware of them. Maybe our parents were concerned but not so much that they felt the need to hover over us. Hovering over us wasn’t going to teach us how to get on and take care of ourselves, to deal with and interact with the world. Afterall, our parents wanted us to leave home when we got older. Having freedom to get out from under them was to prepare us for this time. Mom couldn’t hold our hand forever. Nor did she want to be driving us all over either. Ha!
A day could include playing pretend, putting on skits we girls made up about our favorite TV shows. Man I hated always having to be Sabrina from Charlie’s Angels. If there was a house under construction, it was pretty much trampled by us kids. Nothing was sacred. During honeysuckle season, our parents could track what part of the woods we entered into by the pile of tossed sucked dry flower heads on the roadside. We found stone alters that just had to be from times of the Indians and Pilgrims. Was that dried blood left on some of them? And sometimes when you wanted to take it slow or be on your own, you’d just find a quiet place in the yard and stare up at the clouds in the sky. What did you see there? Some of my earliest stories came from me chasing the clouds.
That’s just a little bit of what it was like in my neighborhood growing up as a kid. The neighborhood was just as much our house as our actual houses. I miss those times, those freedoms before becoming teenagers then adults. Like I said, I don’t know if children today get to have adventures like this anymore. They benefit from so much that wasn’t available to me growing up. Yet part of me is glad I didn’t have them.