Many years have passed; the trees have matured into a canopy, but the houses look much the same. I'm jogging in the neighborhood where I grew up, running down memory lane.
I moved away 40 years ago, but my childhood lives forever inside of me, and now it smiles out towards these familiar streets.
I'm jogging past the street where I was always dashing for the bus with my brothers. Me, out of breath, and the two of them with their clip-on ties askew. I can still hear our metal lunch boxes banging against our legs, Batman and Robin propelling us forward.
Now I'm running past our friend, Jean's, house where Jean, my sister, and I practiced gymnastics on the lawn. Once when Jean grabbed her ankles and rolled backwards onto her face we laughed until tears streamed down our cheeks.
Up the hill to the very same spot where my eight-year-old self and my brother, Tim, paused with our red wagon full of lemonade, ready to set up our stand. But Eddie the bully cornered us, hawked and spat, ruining our supply.
I see the house where I picked up the newspapers that I delivered every day after school, braving thunderstorms in the summer, and snowballs in the winter. Every Friday I'd collect the money—90 cents a week. I was happy when they gave me a dollar and said, "Keep the change."
Then I pause to catch my breath. I'm in front of the house where I grew up. Fresh paint, a few trees cut down, but the face is the same. Colonial and content, embracing its current generation. I've heard that it's remodeled inside, but I'm not sure I want to see.
I want to remember it the way it was— with our dog, Heidi's, toenails tapping the kitchen floor, and the smell of Dad's pipe. Sunday morning brought the aroma of bacon and the sounds of Irish music playing.
We built forts in the basement and crawled in and out of them until our knees were black and blue. A few years later, I retreated back to the basement to talk to my boyfriend on the teen phone. We decorated our rooms with The Beatles and Peter Max.
My oldest child, Erin, got to unwrap Christmas presents in that house.
Across the street is the Zink's house where we played kick the can, hide and seek, and let's see who can jump off the garage roof and land in the sandbox. I gaze at the driveway where Mark dragged a huge snapping turtle out of the woods. We dashed over to see it, then screamed and ran away when it hissed and snapped.
I jog past my best friend, Betsy's, house. We made magic there. Our dolls became real and they flew around the world, solving crimes and dancing with movie stars. We put on plays in her garage and spied on her big sister and her boyfriend.
We were gone for hours and our parents didn't have to worry.
When it was time for dinner Dad stood on the front step, pursed his lips, and trilled his sailor whistle. Every kid in the neighborhood knew that call and would tell us if we didn't hear it first.
How blessed we were to be a loving family that grew up in a safe neighborhood, part village, part playground.
When I think of the many twists and turns that my life has taken since then, I am grateful that my tender years were spent on these streets. Here I learned to follow rules, take turns, laugh at myself, make friends, deal with disappointment, and play ball.
I reflect upon this as I finish my run down memory lane. My hope is that the woman whom I have become will be a light for others.
Matthew 5:14:"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;"
In my teaching career I sometimes dealt with parents or children who were raised on mean and dangerous streets. Abuse and fear lived in their homes. Some of my students grew up much too quickly. I have learned to be patient with wounded souls.
The same is true of some of the women that I have sponsored in the rooms of recovery. They lack the benefit of a joyful youth. They never had a chance to play. Unlike me, their trials were front-loaded into their formative years.
Does that describe you? If your childhood was a broken and barren place I want you to know that Jesus loves you too. We will never know all of the answers in this life, but it helps to remember that Jesus left his perfect neighborhood to spend 33 years in ours. He did this so our suffering could become temporary.
To read an article about what the bible says about faith and adversity click here: Ernest Angley Ministries.
I have endured great tragedy since those innocent childhood days, but I know that God still loves me and has prepared a place for me. When I visit the old neighborhood a few times a year I can reminisce about gentler days. More importantly, I look ahead to that heavenly neighborhood that we will all share one day—the one with streets paved with gold.
How about you? What kind of neighborhood did you grow up in? Is it a place that blessed you, or was it something that you've had to overcome? Post below and tell me about it.