“And what becomes of the old neighborhood? In one sense, nothing. You were only a minor molecule in its chemistry. Go back a week after you’ve moved, and the same dogs are pulling their owners to the park, the same stoop-sitters sitting out. Let enough time pass, and things become a little ghostly. It begins to feel as though the neighborhood has forgotten you, instead of the other way around. When you lived there, nothing changed without your noticing it. Now the changes accumulate unperceived, and you begin to realize that a part of you has vanished into the past.”

– excerpted from The Old Neighborhood, NY Times 6/26/2012

H-O-R-S-E, ca 1950’s

One of the street games we played was called HORSE. The kid standing against the fence was known as “the pillow”. Someone usually “chickened out” and volunteered to take that position and for good reason. The others divided up with the biggest and heaviest kids the most valuable. The line would set up so the first one was up agains the pillow, the others behind with head down, shoulders against butt. The opposing team would run up one at a time and jump on top of the line. Everyone tried to jump on the back of the same kid to try and get the line to collapse. If the line held, the pillow would scream out the letters H-O-R-S-E three times and everyone would get off. Then the kids on the bottom got to be the kids on the top and tried to get some justifiable revenge.

No one got hurt, no one threatened to sue, and the fat kid was the hero.

There were other games – skelly, stickball, punchball, ring-o-levio, crack-top. stoopball. And the games would go on well into the night since air conditioning was a luxury no one could afford. The sounds would drift up the sides of the buildings and caught by the women leaning on the window sills watching the children below or calling to others in their folding chairs by the curb or sitting on building stoops. When it finally was time to  break up and go back to our apartments for the night, we skipped up the cast iron and granite steps into the apartments with the doors held open by kitchen chairs so the air could move thru the rooms from the windows and out into the hallways. We washed at the kitchen sink and made our beds on the fire escapes, letting whatever cool air of a Brooklyn night cover us along with the thin sheets from our beds.

In the thick and sweet air of summer, you looked up into the night at the stars and drifted off listening to the last sounds of the games, the echos of the radios in the courtyard, or the rough shifting of the cars in the street. You were home.

[h/t to Spaldeen Dreams for the photo…]