I grew up in a medium-sized city in Upstate New York, in the best neighborhood in town, on a block that thrived off of beautifully 1920s-built homes, laughing & playing children, and an incredible amount of shade provided by hundred-year-old oaks and maples up and down the street. Living on our block was my most cherished memory of growing up. It was a safe haven I could run to when I was bullied at school, when I was fired from my job, when things in our household weren’t going so well. Our neighborhood was what everyone in the area pined for: great neighbors, inexpensive mortgages, decent school district, and close to everything.
I loved my neighborhood so much that I started a small newsletter when I was 11 years old. I tried my hardest to get all the neighborhood kids involved (mainly because they were my best friends and I wanted to include them in everything I did), but wound up writing and editing the entire newsletter myself for nearly five years. But I loved every minute of writing that stupid thing; from interviews with neighbors, to feature writing like “Pet of the Month,” to reporting the latest news on garage sales, and who was moving out and who was moving in. It was a lame little newsletter that I wrote every month for those five years, but I put a lot of hard work into it and for someone as young as I was, I think all that hard work really showed. Plenty of my family members and neighbors were impressed by the 11-year-old girl who took after her journalist parents. If I dug up those old newsletters now, and I read them, I am absolutely certain I would be entirely mortified and would never be able to show my face around you ever again.
My favorite memory I have of myself and the neighborhood kids (and maybe of all-time) is the one that I’m sure all of you can distinctly remember me for.
Let me set the scene for you:
There was a piece of beautiful blue glass stuck in the cement of the sidewalk up the street on our block, and I remember it being there for many years. Every time I walked by it, my then 5-year-old, pea-sized brain would imagine that it was a piece of glass that existed along with the dinosaurs millions of years ago. I decided I wanted that piece of beautiful blue glass for myself and I made a plan to one afternoon dig it out with the other neighborhood kids when our moms were not looking.
So the afternoon that we decided to dig up my treasured piece of blue glass had come, and while my mother was preoccupied with my baby sister, I grabbed the largest knife I could find in the kitchen, a butcher’s knife, and the hand of my little brother and began to march up the street, on a mission. Now try and picture a 5-year-old wielding what was basically a sword in comparison to her size, and her 3-year-old brother being dragged along by the hand, parading up the street whilst gathering a cluster of other 3 and 5-year-olds trailing behind them. Once on the scene, everyone gathered in a circle around me, I drove the point of the knife into the ground and began hacking away at the sidewalk.
Not even five minutes at our excavation site, but what do I see? My best friends’ mother stomping her way up the sidewalk, pure anger present on her entire face. At that moment, the majority of neighborhood kids scattered in terror. Instead of running, I stayed put with my knife, my trustiest companions still by my side, as well as my horrified little brother. Forced to hold hands with the rest of the crew, and confiscated of my knife, my friends’ mother brought us all back to our respective homes, explaining the situation to our mothers in turn.
My little brother Peter was let off the hook, if I remember correctly, while I was sent to my room with a huge look of disapproval given by my mother. Angry that I was being punished for attempting something so daring, I opened up my window and climbed out on the roof, convinced that I would be able to jump down and run away scold-free. Instead, I sat on the roof for a bit contemplating my next move. But before I know it, the house phone rings and I hear my mother on the phone with our neighbor, and now that she is well-informed of my next charade, she races up the stairs to drag me back inside from off of the roof.
Needless to say, that day was one for the “Crazy Kid Clare” history books, and to this day, I never live it down. I am often faced with, “Remember that time you thought a broken beer bottle was actually a special piece of glass from the dinosaur-age?” I like to reply with something along the lines of having a better imagination than you do, punk.
At any rate, sheer embarrassment has become a running theme in my life; maybe someday I will come to accept that I am just full of embarrassing moments, but moments that I can easily look back on fondly and laugh so much at that milk comes out of my nose.
© clare elisabeth photography 2023 - all rights reserved