Friday, July 1, 2011

Small Town in the Big City

I live in a neighborhood full of delusional people. I am one of them. We like to believe that our four block radius is actually a small town, even though we are in the middle of a big city. Kids run in and out of each other’s homes as if all the homes on are street are one big house that all the kids share. People watch out for each other’s children and pets and property as if it were their own. We pass down outgrown clothes to the next youngest child on the block, do dinner trains when someone is sick or there has been a death in a family. We have group trips to the beach, picnics in the park, and potlucks throughout the year.

The way our neighborhood celebrates the Fourth of July reminds me most of our small town longings. There is a big, neighborhood-wide block party with hot dogs and sack races and pie contests. An antique fire truck leads a parade up and down the street. Mini flags are placed on lawns, children decorate their bikes or scooters and themselves in anything red, white and blue. Last year, a mom on the block used her artistry, face painting our children’s faces with stars and fireworks and flags.

After the block party, we gather at someone’s house for a potluck and the musicians in the neighborhood bring out their guitars and drums and even a violin and play as the rest of us sing Beatles songs off key and the kids splash around in the pool, completely ignoring any warning not to swim until 30 minutes after eating.

As evening falls, a group of us from our street will walk together carrying folding chairs, pulling little red wagons full of children or juice boxes or jug wine, and we will go down to the wash where the street dead ends and set up an area to view the fireworks. We’ll sit there until it is dark and then marvel at the streaks of color lighting the sky. I glance over at our children, thrilled, happy, safe, and try to keep our small town delusion going a little bit longer.

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