When I was a little kid, parents seldom worried that their children would be accosted by strange people or that their children would suddenly disappear, never to be seen again. Parents just knew that kids would dawdle and explore stuff along their route home. Kids were just being kids. Times were simpler and safer then.
I was never that child who traveled straight home from school. At that time, school was a 6-block walk from my home and there was a lot of stuff between home and school to explore. For instance, a block from school, my best friend and I would go rock-climbing. This was a small empty lot with a “huge” rocky mini-mountain right smack-dab in the middle. It was probably why nothing was ever built on that tiny lot because it would take an enormous amount of blasting to remove the rocks and blasting would cost a great deal of money. My parents could never figure out why I always came home with scuffed shoes and scraped knees. To reach the top of our secret mountain, it took plenty of stretching our short legs, reaching for finger holds and lots of giggling while clinging to the rocky surface. We were only six years old and so determined to reach the top that we never thought about how to get back down. That was one more mystery for my parents to figure out—how the back of my coat got this distressed look because Irene and I were too scared to climb back down, so we sat on our bottoms and bumped our way to the ground,
About 3 blocks from home, there was a corner store called “Gems” that sold penny candy. Whenever either of us had a nickel, we would head directly there and share in the bounty. For 5-cents, we would have a nice bagful of strawberries made of chewy marshmallows, jaw-breakers, fat waxy red lips that were worn briefly, then broken apart and chewed; licorice whips, chocolate chews and so much more. I always thought that besides satisfying our sweet tooth, this was our earliest exposure to economics and the value of a penny.
A long block later, Irene would turn onto the short lane leading to her house. I had another block to go. On this final block, I would pass by a bright yellow house with the most spectacular garden. The lady who lived there was a thin, grouchy woman who devoted her energy to her flowers and each season rewarded her with a field of colours. When she was tending her flowers, I would always pause to admire her garden and say “Hello.” She would always ignore me, but one day she turned around and said “Hello” back. I was so astonished that I offered her my bag with the last of the penny candies. I had been saving the fat waxy red lips for last. With a small smile, she reached over to clip three dahlias in trade for the red lips and told me her name. It was Mrs. Spiggott and we became friends. Two years later, I moved to another school, closer to home. Mrs. Spiggott also moved away that same year. To this day, I often wondered what she thought of those fat waxy red lips and did she know what a treat it was to a six year old.
Years later, Irene and I took a stroll down our old primary school route. Our rocky “mountain” was still there and another group of little six year olds were climbing to the top. We both smiled as our mountain had shrunk considerably, but it still provided a lot of after-school entertainment. As for Gems, it was still on the same corner and still sold its immense choices of penny candy. Mrs. Spiggott’s house, with its beautiful garden as well as the houses on either side of her was now the site of a small apartment building.
The neighbourhood had changed but we had too. And that’s what life is all about—to feel the joy, accept the changes, acknowledge the progress and enjoy the adventures–lots and lots of adventures, both big and small. After all, Life’s a series of challenges and goals, problems and puzzles, sorrow and joy. There will always be spontaneous and wonderful moments that make you love and laugh—moments that will keep you happy, curious and eager for more. . . .adventures.