Taking part in the Ann Dee Ellis 8-Minute Memoir Writing Challenge. This is Day Thirty-Four
Our neighborhood was one of those post-WWII neighborhoods that sprung up for all the returning soldiers and their special girls who would soon create the baby boom. By the time I was born and my parents bought our house, those young families were all grandparents, and their modest GI-bill houses had mature trees and large green yards with apricot trees and lush vegetable gardens. Our neighborhood was populated by Freds and Dons who wore suspenders with their trousers, and Connies and Evelyns who wore lose flowered dresses and costume jewelry that was fashionable 30 years before.
Mostly, I remember the old men. They would sit on the milk-delivery cooler next to their side door, or in a lawn chair next to their front door, and wave as the neighborhood children played and rode our bikes. Fred had two giant orange trees in his front yard that he tended meticulously. Don was friendly, but his wife didn’t speak English and his porch smelled like mothballs. Mr Frietas would go for a slow walk several times a day, with his hat perched high on his head, and butterscotch candies in his pocket for any child who stopped to say hi.
When the mailman, Mac, would drive up in his post WWII-era re-comissioned Jeep, the men would gather and chat. Looking back, of course they were all veterans, and I can see now patterns that were invisible as a child. Mac would turn off his Jeep some days and join one of them on their porch for a sandwich and a Coke. They’d all wave to us scrappy children paying tag or hide-and-seek. Our neighborhood—the safe, happy children laughing and playing, the huge orange trees, the milk-man who still brought us milk form Edelweiss Dairy, the younger families buying the modest homes as the older folks moved to San Diego—were the culmination of what they had fought for, what they had risked their lives for, and the things for which maybe a Coke and a sandwich with another old man on a sunny porch helped them forget together.
I don’t think any of us kids really liked the cellophane-wrapped butterscotch candies Mr. Frietas would offer from his sweater pocket. But I don’t think a single one of us ever turned one down. We may not have understood why, but we always thanked him and shoved them in our own pockets.