Adventure Is Out There

Aidan is 10, going on 11 this fall. He told me recently that play dates should now be called “hang outs.” He has at least 3 friends living within a two-block radius of our house. When he gets bored during these long summer days, I instruct him to go knock on someone’s door and find someone to “hang out” with. But he balks, says he’s too shy. Never mind that these same boys regularly knock on our door looking for him.

This may be my fault. When he was younger and wanted to knock on his friends’ doors, I would tell him that the polite thing to do would be for me to text the mom first. It seemed to me that this was the way it was done now, except in select situations like with our neighbors behind us, where by dint of proximity and deep friendships, barging in become the norm on both sides.

So now that knocking on doors is OK, now that any barging-in stigma is attached to the child and not the parent, naturally he doesn’t want to.

I hope that he gets over this, but even if he doesn’t, it may soon not matter, because he is approaching the age when houses will be bypassed altogether and he will simply text his friends on his (not yet acquired) phone and they will all hang out at Wawa.

Of course I can’t help but think about my glorious youth, where I knocked on 15 doors a day if necessary to find a friend who could come out and play. Living in a rowhome neighborhood, all these doors were located right on my block. Even if I was a little bit shy, and even if someone had a parent who was a little gruff or didn’t speak English, this mattered not, because you did what you had to do to have fun, and parents were simply gatekeepers, not anyone we were really expected to talk to much. You knocked on the door, asked for the friend to come out, and they either did or didn’t.

By the time I was 10, in 1987, I had a best friend, J., that I spent most of my time with. That summer of ’87 is the last good one I remember in that neighborhood. We moved away in spring of ’89, and I spent the summer of ’88 sidelined with a broken foot. In the summer of ’87, my favorite jam was “La Isla Bonita” by Madonna, and it seemed to sum up to me perfectly the romance and adventure that I felt was everywhere in my neighborhood, in the summer particularly, even if I was (it seemed, sometimes) the only one who could see it.

That summer was the first time that I was allowed to roam away from my block for long periods of time. I’m sure if cell phones were available back then, my mother would have promptly gotten me one, but instead we were in communications blackout. J. and I roamed the neighborhood (me on a ten-speed, her on a scooter), in all directions but often drawn west, out of Pennsauken and into Camden. My fuzzy recollection is that we didn’t often get far when we tried to go due west. I’m not sure what stopped us. Unfriendly-looking kids and/or adults? The simple uneasy/titillating feeling of watching the street signs tick lower (39th, 38th…). Mom’s voice in my head? Who knows.

But, when we rode northwest, toward the elementary school where I’d gone to kindergarten before switching to Catholic school, we entered a neighborhood of single homes, ranchers and split-levels, and this, while still far enough from home base to be different and intriguing, didn’t seem scary. We didn’t know anyone in this neighborhood save one girl. She lived with her grandmother, who was sick, and we took advantage of this to watch the forbidden (to me) Purple Rain. Most of the time, though, it was just me and J. riding, and sometimes just me. J’s scooter was slower than my bike, and frankly I was more into this exploring thing than she was.

The pinnacle of this season of exploration was when I followed a winding street in that split-level neighborhood down a hill and up a hill and ended up on River Road, where it rose to overpass train tracks. I took in the wide vista of trains, highway, cars, water, trees, maybe even parts of Philadelphia in the distance. I contemplated following River Road as it sloped back down and into Camden.

This is where I long to be

La isla bonita


Eating: pesto made with basil from the garden and farmers’ market garlic; homemade whole-wheat pancakes; tacos with garden lettuce and Hillacres Pride beef; homemade lemonade; salad with garden lettuce; lots of delivered pizza.

Preserving: broccoli and green beans from the farmers’ market.


Planting: sunflowers and zinnias out front; green “Cantare” beans out back.

Harvesting: Garlic? Took one out but didn’t seem quite ready, so will wait on the others. And three small broccoli heads.


Protecting: the fast-growing pumpkins and watermelons from the groundhog.

Celebrating: the 4th of July at the pool. I wanted to make a full old-fashioned picnic (lemonade! fried chicken!) but got as far as homemade deviled eggs and watermelon from Acme (and chicken from Chick Fil A shhhhhhhh). My porch bunting is tablecloths from the dollar store. Is there nothing you can’t do with dollar store tablecloths?? The kids took part in a bike parade that morning which was fun.

Reading: Give a Girl a Knife, ordered for me by my mom :); Freakonomics

Frugal victories: got my contacts rebate of $40; listed more baby clothes on eBay; sold a few random household items on the Facebook yard sale pages; helped my son save money while buying a Lego set with birthday money by maniacally researching the best way to buy it.

Frugal fails: Verizon rejected my plea to remove a movie I bought by mistake (Shark 90210; don’t ask), saying I waited too long; car broke down, at a cost of $300 and more repairs still needed; went through three EZ Pass tolls without my little device, incurring fines; bought peaches at the farmers’ market then failed to do anything with them; took kids to the movies when it wasn’t discount day.

This week is farm camp for Gemma, then we have a long stretch with nothing planned until we go down the shore in late August…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s