Neighborhood Kids II

CoCo Wheats. Malt-o-Meal. Cream of Wheat. Probably in that very order.

Winding the story back to 1973–1974, so many other things come to mind, about how I loved (and still love) breakfast: the smell of coffee, eggs and pan-roasted potatoes, bacon, toast, and hot cereal. Grandma Adams used to ask me and baby brother what we wanted for breakfast. Fried eggs? “Will it be Greensburg eggs?” we chimed back. “Only with Greensburg eggs!” she’d say. [Greensburg, Indiana, was where our maternal grandparents lived.] But if we weren’t having eggs, I’d always ask for CoCo Wheats. With sugar and milk. Used to let it sit and develop a skin, which I scraped off with my spoon and happily ate.

My brother, on the other hand, was all about cold cereal. It had to be either Cap’n Crunch, Quisp, Franken Berry or Count Chocula. If I had cold cereal, I’d eat Alpen or Life (“Hey Mikey! He likes it!”—a longstanding joke in our family) while the folks had their Total or Raisin Bran washed down with Sanka.

Brian and I often had food wars. He thought a real man ate a Big Mac, but I always got a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Every. Single. Time. At one point he said, “You never get a Big Mac!”

“I don’t want a Big Mac. I want a Quarter Pounder with Cheese.”

“You’re a wussy.”

“Whatever.”

Mom was big about making chili, which I believe is the only thing she knew how to cook. Dad used to say, “Your mom could burn water.” But she took in the neighborhood kids and fed them chili during the cold winter months. Brian and I quickly got to know our new neighborhood friends: up the road, Eric, whose father was an attorney, and became Brian’s new friend, David, who lived down the street with his three sisters and older brother (with Brian, who’s in front in the photo above, winter 1971–72), and some older boys like John, Matthew and Steve.

David’s family, the Rogers, became our family’s closest friends right from the start. Their father, John, was an airline pilot for Northwest, and mother, Gerry, was a housewife famous for her homemade root beer. But months after we’d arrived in Minnesota, Gerry was hospitalized and died of cirrhosis of the liver. When John was left to care for their five kids, he too succumbed to alcoholism. We kids tried to break the tension of the situation through hi-jinks and wordplay, and staying out of the house as much as possible.

We got to be street kids, in a way. After school, the folks let us play until suppertime, when Dad rang a dinner bell at the front door (it pains me to admit that, but he thought nothing of yelling for us at the top of his lungs), then, if we’d already done our schoolwork, we were allowed to play after supper until it was dark, when we were called home to wash up and get ready for bed.

Those are mostly happy memories: of Flashlight Tag, Kick the Can, Hide and Seek, or tackle football in the empty lot just across the road from our house. In the summer we went swimming off our dock, boating, fishing, camping on any number of the lake’s islands, building forts on the embankment and having mudball fights.

Do kids today still do any of these things?

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~ by completelyinthedark on April 3, 2011.

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