Everything we ever needed could be found within the boundaries of two or three streets. And so growing up we never felt the need to venture very far from home. The hot pavement was our playground. We pitched pennies against the curb and played kick the can in the middle of the street, all the while dodging semi-tractor trailers on their way to the Air Reduction factory at the bottom of the street.
As we grew older, in our pre-teens, we became more adventurous. Rumor had it there was an actual playground about four or five streets away located in what was then a predominantly Romanian neighborhood. Shoring up our courage and in open defiance of our grandmothers’ golden rule: “Don’t leave the street!” We ventured out.
It was a whole new world. There we discovered other kids. Kids who were not Italian! For years we thought the world was inhabited by only Italians. Imagine? It was there that we learned how small the world was.
At the playground we met Irish, Romanian, and American kids. American kids meaning the third or fourth generation of Any Ethnic-American who ate sliced white bread and bologna sandwiches.
The playground was a wonderland with a large baseball diamond populated by older boys playing baseball. There were swing sets, monkey bars and sliding boards that were at least nine or ten feet tall. Not only did we continued to venture outside of our neighborhood, but we also broke the “be home before the street lights come on” rule.
More than a few boys, my brothers included, ended up with loose brains. And that’s because when the grandmothers caught you, they gave you a whack to the head – “Don’t you ever make me worry like that again.”
Still, we were growing up fast, so even the threat of violence didn’t stop us. We continued to go to the playground and mix and mingle with our new friends. These were friendships that would last our entire lives. Eventually some of us even married some of these non-Italians. But that’s another story for another time.
Who knew all of those years ago what would happen. Where life would take us. What roads we would travel. How we would turn out? Who became doctors, lawyers, police, politicians and crooks. All we knew for sure is that we would stay friends forever and we did.