At 211 W. 7th, I would sometimes hide…
You know, I lived on 7th and Boots. It was the block where white people are assumed to be either lost or missionaries; red, white, and blue light up the streets in the night, and the noises remind you to pray as you drift back off to sleep.
Sometimes I would hide… but not because I had to take the long way home from a walk because there were gunshots heard on my path between now and when I left to visit my friend. It also had nothing to do with the men across the street who sat around most days in a circle of chairs drinking lots of Budweiser.
No, I loved it all (and that’s an understatement). I would hide from little tiny knocks and voices that would call out… “Miss JUUUUUUUlie!”
It’s a sound I miss all the time now. They are the knocks I wish would come, so I could swing open the door and wait for a number of different phrases that all expressed the same desire for connection or to beat boredom. “What are you doing? Can I come in? Can I get a popsicle? Can I play the game? Can I sit on your porch?”
I enjoyed the Sunday morning I was woken up to the knock of 6 yr. old Chris and his cousin, David. They wanted to show me the tiny gardner snake they found and contained in a cup. The louder, summer-time knocks typically came with a teenager capitalizing on an opportunity to make money. (“Miss Julie, your lawn is getting long.” … “Perfect timing, man! Ten bucks? And yeah, borrow the mower – go cut more.”)
Most times it was the little boys (and their one tenacious, girl cousin that they would all follow around if she was home from school). They had lots of energy and were just plain bored. If my car was home, they knew I was too. Whether I was showering, just got back from work, or on an important phone call, they KNEW if they knocked long enough alternating both doors (and some windows), I WOULD come – eventually.
“We know you’re home!” was not uncommon. I’d pull my bedroom door shut, because they knew where to stand on the porch, and how to position their face in the window, to see through the living room into my room to confirm – I was, in fact, there.
I won’t lie – the reason they came back is because my roommates and I said yes to their requests 90% of the time, and they knew that the common living area, games, and food of our home belonged to them just as much as us. Yet sometimes, I would hide… for a bit of quiet, because I couldn’t be distracted on a phone call, or because I just hated saying no.
It really really is the beauty of the neighborhood and the beauty of my former home, with my incredible roommates who also loved kids so well. As the kids would stream in and out, we would chat about life, make food, play games, go on trips to the pet store, do dishes, work out, and do other random, creative things. It didn’t matter what my housemates and I were doing, they would just join in. We all learned a lot from each other.
What I miss about the neighborhood was the simplicity of doing life together and the mentality that everything was shared, and there was enough time to just be, and play, and if you’re home – I’m surely welcome too.
What I also loved was moving from visitor to family. The same parents who let their kids frequent my house daily for popsicles and apples would be the same ones welcoming me in for a burger when I returned from California, urging me to marry a black man and move back quickly, and reprimanding me for ever visiting Indiana without stopping by.
Being in California for 4 years has been a beautiful time, but I haven’t heard little knocks or tiny voices at the door in a long time. If I did, I assure you I wouldn’t hide this time – I’d come running to greet them.