Nestled in the corner of a growing town, my neighborhood sits at the edge of an airport, a little lost in a field of growing office buildings and hotels. It wasn't always like this; at one time my little neighborhood was filled with life.
In the 80's what I called home was a small, one story gray house created in the image of the 12 others that surrounded it, with clashing red shutters and trees sculpted into a kid's dreamworld of climbing and forts and club houses. Beyond my street was another, and another and another, until they stopped the mystery of the airport fence topped with barbed wire. We were dreamers back then, when a kid lived in every house in my suburban dead end circle. And we were all friends, from the eccentric white trash family across from us to the four catholic mistakes at the end of the circle.
Echos of laughter bounced off the paper thin walls of the nearby houses, while mud pies compiled of wet dirt, caterpillars, rocks and flowers were made using the wheel of a red tricycle to compact them, while the cracking of metal bat against baseball chimed as the older kids played ball in the circle. This was the time when Mrs. Brown, the Spanish woman, gave the kids candy, the ice cream man let us climb onto the truck, lemonade stands sprouted like wild flowers, and Nintendo games decided who was the alpha male of the neighborhood.
We dreamed of building club houses and candy stores, of playing in professional sports leagues, and we traded baseball cards for sticks of bubble gum while those of us unfortunate enough not to have a pool lined the chain link fences waiting for an invite. This was the time where we the neighborhood would gather around our giant pine tree at Christmas to watch the tacky multi colored bulbs burn bright .
Then the airport bought out and took away the second bus stop in the neighborhood and our classmates all moved off, leaving half the houses empty shells. It was also this time that office buildings erupted in the fields were we used to catch garden snakes, and where two of the older boys had left their decaying Superman costumes. It was the birth of a video store that kids were not allowed to go into, and it was the dawn of fear when stories of clowns that kidnapped surfaced and scooters were stolen out of your front yard. Another story, one of a body discovered in a car on the other side of the airport's barb wired fence, was denied by parents everywhere but soon after a wall was put up on the other side of the fence.
This was the year when the 40-year-old with the long beard who still lived with his parents fought with neighbors about his motorcycle, around the same time where the nice guy across the street was put in jail and the four catholic mistakes became five. This was the time when the abandoned houses were destroyed and burned and paved over and another barbed wire fence rose up.
This was when the older kids found magazines and movie covers from the grown-ups' video store and kept them hidden in a clubhouse built in the woods. It was this time when the Jehovah's Witnesses' kids had to stay with us because their father had broken their mother's leg, and this was when trees were destroyed one by one to make way for new septic tanks.
The older kids grew into teenagers fascinated with fireworks and fires, windows started to break at various neighbors' houses, lawn chairs and planters began to turn up missing from our yards. Kids began to venture out of the neighborhood in search of new friends, and the street began to grow quiet. The two girls who babysat moved away, followed by the three kids with the mom who had an Irish accent. The five Catholic mistakes left, and the barbed wire fence inched closer and closer to us.
The boy with all the cats left, followed by the first wave of older kids now ready for college. The ice cream man never bothered with our street anymore, and the competition for perfect lawns now became a competition to have grass at all in the yards. Instead of neighbors gathering to laugh together, they began arguing about each other's dogs barking, or a dead tree that swayed into a yard. Single story houses once all of the same mould began to grow additions and spread. Chain link fences were replaced by tall wooden palisades. The woods shrank to a small lot, and the only remnants of the clubhouse were rusty nails and patches of splintered wood.
Doors and windows were shut more often; doors were now always locked, along with backyard gates. Laughter drifted in, mocking the neighborhood that had prided itself on its greatness. As the barbed wire fence moves closer, instead of always looking out, you begin to find yourself looking in....