Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Way We Are

A thrill was meeting actor Jon Provost (Timmy Martin)
and getting his autograph!  This was in the early 1960s.

It seems more and more I am remembering the way we were.  I know with age comes glossing over past events in our lives but I truly believe the way we were is much better than the way we are.

A recurring thought keeps coming to me and I just had to write about it, maybe then it won't be so recurrent.  In November, Clint called out to me to look outside our front window.  There were three police cars parked across the street from us.  A few yards down there was a firetruck and another "official looking" white vehicle.  Of course we expected the worst, THREE police cars!  The only thing I could learn that day was that someone had been carried out on a stretcher. 

Flash back to the 1950s or 1960s:  I could not imagine such a scene on my old hometown street back in those days.  We knew almost everyone in the entire town and especially the neighbors on our street. We even knew their phone numbers by heart.  More amazing than that, they actually answered their phones when we called them!  Imagine such a thing!

Clint and I are dumbfounded when we pass people
on the sidewalks here who will not respond when we speak to them.
In my make-pretend "Mayberry World", people will actually return a "hello".

Year ago if we had witnessed three police cars across the street, we would have known what had happened and tried to help our neighbors in any possible way. Of course, I don't mean running over to the home or intruding in anyway with their medical assistance. The most common way our old neighbors would communicate the news of some kind of trouble would be by telephone. I was the caretaker of animals and plants on my street if someone had to be away from home. {Also the "hair stylist" and "make up artist" but that's another blog ;-)}

In front of our house, back in November.  (The background has
  been "airbrushed" out.)

Currently I am reading James Agee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, A Death in the Family.  Once again I am reminded of days gone by when we used to gather outside at night.  I lived next door to my grandparents and we would spread blankets out in the front lawn at night. The kids loved the blankets on the ground, the adults would be in lawn chairs.  Often we were catching lightning bugs while waiting for the watermelons to be cut or the homemade ice cream to be churned.  I remember one night my grandmother attempting to show me Sputnik in the clear night sky.

I remember it like yesterday, my grandmother trying to
point out Sputnik in the starry night sky.  I was about 5 years old.

Never will I forget one particular week in my former Tennessee neighborhood.  I believe it was in 1998, we had three close neighbors pass away within four days of each other!  One neighbor right behind us, our neighbor right beside us and the neighbor directly across the street all passed away within four days of each other! I couldn't make up such a story!

Yikes!  Yes, this was getting a little too close for comfort!  I remember walking around feeling stunned!  We had known these neighbors for decades.

There was a time when we used to know our neighbors.  I admit we knew many of them because of playing with the neighborhood children.  A totally different lifestyle back then, we would get up and roam all day on our bikes and on foot.  My brother and friends would be at the Clinch River fishing.  We were climbing trees, playing with bugs, flying kites, playing in mud ... YES, getting dirty and loving it! GERMS!

People spending time together on porches or on blankets spread out in the front lawn as in this scene from The Andy Griffith Show.
Today's world has most people inside the house, spouses and children all separated and involved in their respective electronic device of choice.

A few nights ago during one of our 4:30 AM conversations, Clint brought back a warm memory.  We both remembered our parents coming out to yell at us that "supper's ready" or "time to come inside."  Clint's parents had a more "advanced" system at times, the ringing of a bell or the turning on the porch light as a signal to get him home.  On our street the method was to just step in the front yard and loudly yell the person's name you wanted! We never gave it a second thought.  This method of communicating brought up memories of Lassie, my favorite TV show.  Imagine me stepping in my front yard here in Plano and yelling "CLINT" as loudly as I could!  Or worse yet, "LASSIE'S ON!"

If I remember correctly, the TV show Lassie came on at 6 PM on Sunday evenings.  My mother would come outside and tell me it was about time for Lassie and then I would yell out in the neighborhood, "LASSIE'S ON!" I remember the neighborhood kids scurrying home to watch Lassie.  I know that was 30 minutes that our street was devoid of kids, I was not the only Lassie fan.

Presently I do not know the neighbors across the street from us.  I would not recognize them if I ran into them at our local grocery store around the corner.  Honestly, I have only seen the woman in the family about five times in almost three years. The same goes for many of our very close neighbors.  We rarely see then outside.  One reason is the way this community was planned. 

If you have a lawn service here, theoretically you would have no reason to go out front.  Some people walk to their mail boxes under cover of darkness or drive up and get their mail from their cars.  As far as I know, you are required to have your "backyard" fenced, there again more privacy.  Parking in front of your house on the street is very frowned upon here in Plano.  I was "reminded" of this within days of moving in by a  "well meaning "neighbor.   For the record, there are six cars parked in front of homes right now as I type this.

We have a yard service here, so therefore we don't have to go out front for yard work, we can drive by the mailbox and get our mail, we arrive in the alley coming home and remotely open the garage door, drive inside, remotely close the garage door and  have had no human contact in the process.

How well I was reminded of of the lack of human contact a few years ago by the documentary, Subdivided: Isolation and Community in America.  I was struck by this documentary by Dean Terry and his story about "the lawn mower guy"" that he encountered in this area. 

Terry had moved into a nearby neighborhood and saw the guy across the street was mowing his lawn with his riding lawn mower.  Terry decided to walk over and introduce himself to this new neighbor.  As soon as the "lawn mower guy" saw that Terry was approaching him, he turned his mower around and drove to the back of the house.  Terry relates how he lived there for several years and never ever met the "lawn mower guy".  An image of a Plano, TX, water tower was used in this documentary.  I am not saying this is only happening in Plano, TX, unfortunately it is becoming the way we are.

About those three police cars in front of our house:  About six weeks later an opportunity arose that enabled me to inquire about what happened that particular day.  It was a medical emergency that hopefully had a happy ending.  That's all I know.


Clint said...

Yes, it is almost unbelievable what we have become as a nation. Everyone has their own life and no one wants to tear themselves away from their IPhone, TV, computer, Kindle, IPad or video game. We even text so we don't have to talk to a real person. Kids today are disconnected from true social skills. Great post.

Cindy Ellison said...

An excellent comment, honey. Yes, so many electronic gadgets from which to choose!

Remember the days of playing Scrabble with a real board and real humans?

Franz said...

Hello Cindy, great post! I was a child playing in the street with old bottle caps......anything electronic!

Now my girls play only with computers, nintendo xbox Iphone.....
no imagination!

Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

wonderful post ((( Cindy )))
as always, you make me smile :-)
* L A S S I E !!!! lol
one great modern invention is the internet...without which, we'd have never 'met'..
love you...and
HAPPY NEW YEAR ((( Cindy n' Clint ))))

Anonymous said...

oh, yeah... forgot to sign my post.... previous post is by patti

Wind said...

Yes, the same here!
I wish you a Great New Year!
My best regards!

CeccoDotti said...

Happy New Year, Cindy!!

Mrs. White said...

This is a very sad and sweet post. I wish there was some way to make things better.

I enjoyed reading your memories. As a child, we all played in the neighborhood too. It was safe and fun and innocent. Home was so much more special because by the time we all went home, the lights were on and supper was ready, and we were tired!

Mrs. White

Anonymous said...

Cindy, that is a good commentary. It sounds like we grew up in the same era. My husband and I wish that we could get several acres of land and invite those who want to be our neighbors to purchase part of it to develop their home and garden. I would love a community garden and nice neighbors.

Bitch said...

A very good post!
We should stop for a while and think it over.
The world is rushing and we are in it!
BUT without our computer we had never met, ee?

Wish you the best for this New Year,