I believe that everyone has a special place that evokes a sense of home, a sense of belonging that brings peace. My daily walk takes me through my childhood neighborhood, a place of such quiet beauty that I am thankful every time for my grandfather and grandmother’s decision to build a small Cape Cod house there after my grandfather returned from WW II. My parents accompanied by my three brothers and I soon followed.
As a child we walked everywhere. A half mile to the Catholic School we attended, a half mile to the pool we spent each and every day during the summer, learning the joy of winning and heartbreak of losing while swimming on the swim team. We were a half mile from a huge city park that had a rose garden, extensive woods, bike paths and the best neighborhood 4th of July celebration in the city. Walks to school and pool were through a street lined with honey locust trees, honeysuckle bushes and islands of green grass dividing the street into one-ways for slow moving traffic.
I walk there now looking for miracles, not the big earth-shattering kind but the daily gifts that we sometimes too easily overlook. It is here that I smell the rich loamy soil in spring, witness the crocus emerging, then the daffodils and tulips. Smell the peonies in late May in glorious bloom, transporting me back to my best friend Julie’s backyard and her mother’s peony bushes where we would close our eyes and sniff the blossoms careful not to inhale the ants crawling over them. I witness male Cardinals call and display to potential rivals and mates, Robins run and hop in their frenzied comical fashion searching for worms emerging from the rain-soaked earth. As a child I once found a baby bird on my way home from school, tried to save it with the help of my parents but failed. Through that experience I discovered an affinity for wildlife that would carry over to adulthood and my chosen career.
On chilly autumn days, my feet crunch through magenta and orange leaves fallen from oaks and maples displaying such a rich color palette that it takes my breath away. The wet cement smell of the sidewalks mixed with decaying leaves evokes a sense of wanting to settle in, to prepare, to nest for the upcoming winter months.
In summer, I walk in the evening and a young boy rides by on his bike heading home from the pool, hair wet and a soaked towel slung around his neck, leaving a waft of chlorine in his wake.
I believe it is this neighborhood that sustains me, that takes me back to a time when life was full of endless sweet possibilities, before bad decisions cast a blemish on my life. I believe this neighborhood saves me every day, it allows me to be creative, to wonder, to let the mistakes of the past go and to again be that child that walked home from the pool looking forward to dinner, to reading a favored book late into a summer night and to dream.
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