Last night before bed, I had the intention of either writing a short story or, at the very least, coming up with a few ideas for short stories. But as I sat and thought, nothing came to my head. All I could think about was the place where I was raised. I decided to write a little bit about me–which is not something I’m accustomed to doing. Usually if I’m writing, it’s strictly fiction. But after reading what I had written (and becoming quite emotional in the process), I felt it was something I needed to share with the world. So without further ado, here’s a little glimpse into the world I grew up in.
“The Kids of Scarlet Maple” – by Kari Nichols
I grew up in a neighborhood with twenty-four kids. And when I say neighborhood, I mean a short cul-de-sac with only fourteen houses.
In our own prospective circles of life there were jocks, nerds, goths, and loners. There were the slobs, the neat freaks, the scardy-cats and the fearless. But when we were together in the neighborhood, none of the baggage from our outside lives seemed to matter. It was as if the neighborhood was an extension of our own home. The safety and comfort that we felt inside our homes somehow permeated into a bubble that surrounded the entire block. When we were together, no one cared who was popular at school. No one cared if you were musical or athletic or book-smart. We were just us. The kids of Scarlet Maple.
Looking back on the combination of families that lived on the street, it should never have worked so well. Our religions were different. Our political stances were different. Our heritages were different. But none of us cared at all. We were just us. The kids of Scarlet Maple.
My life growing up was filled with day-long games of jailbreak, freeze-tag, horse, foursquare, and football. There were six year olds playing with sixteen year olds, but it never seemed to matter. We were just us. The kids of Scarlet Maple.
The block threw massive celebrations for every holiday. There were Halloween parties with haunted houses I wasn’t allowed into (very conservative upbringing in my house!), Christmas parties where the adults would go to one house and the kids would have a separate party at another, Mardi Gras celebrations complete with beads and king cake, and street-wide Easter egg hunts. We always had something to do if we were bored, someone to talk to if we were sad, and somewhere to go if we were lonely. We were just us. The kids of Scarlet Maple.
As we grew up, our external lives began to creep into our protected little neighborhood. Families moved away. Kids headed off to college and eventually out into the world. We grew up. We moved to Ohio, Missouri, Washington D.C., Texas, New York, Louisiana, and Hawaii. But somehow, miraculously, the bonds we forged so long ago are still holding together. We make the effort to get together whenever we’re all back in town. As I contemplate the strange and bewildering fact that I’m getting ready to photograph the wedding of a man who our neighborhood once nicknamed “slug” (because of his uncanny ability to leave a trail of destruction behind him no matter where he went), I’m struck again by the unbreakable bonds that the kids of Scarlet Maple forged.
My childhood would not hold such incredible memories if not for those twenty-four kids. I’m grateful for the life I was able to live, the lessons I was able to learn, and the life-long friendships I have forged because of that neighborhood.
I joined the kids of Scarlet Maple in 1990. And twenty-four years later, we’re still just us. We’re still sticking together. The kids of Scarlet Maple.