You never really appreciate what you've had until it's gone.
Or until you go through 10+ years of cupboards and cabinets and shelves and saying things like, "I remember this!" and "Hey! That's where I put that!" and "I thought I told you to throw this away??!!"
Back in 2000, my then-husband and I were moving back "home" from Chicago. While driving around town with a Realtor, we stumbled upon a "For Sale by Owner" that caught our eye. Long story short, we jumped through hoops to get the place, and I know I'm forever thankful that we did.
The house itself was well-cared for by the previous owners who built it. It didn't have the particular "charm" of the old, arched-doorway, hardwood floor, solid wood door with glass knobs house that was our first, but it was solidly constructed, well-decorated and family-friendly. I remember thinking to myself, "It has what my family needs. And I will make it a home."
What I didn't realize was that part of what would make this house a home would be the neighborhood. Tucked away at the bottom of a cul-de-sac, this configuration of houses became known to the other, less active courts as "Sesame Street". After living in a transient, commuter world of the western Chicago suburbs, I was not prepared for the onslaught of friendliness. Muffins from the lady next door. Offers of help from the guy down the way. Visits from the gal across the street - who would soon become one of my best friends. What I didn't know at the time was that she was the neighbor designated to "check us out" to see if we were a good fit for this little club.
There were more kids than you could possibly yell at to get off your lawn. At one point, 27 children resided in the 13 or so houses in this Family Circle. Baseball games, headed by a couple of dads, were the norm on any given evening. On the last day of school, the moms would put on a celebration extravaganza - one year we helped the kids all make tie-dye shirts; another year, a scavenger hunt. Summer days were alive with sprinklers, bicycles, bubbles and sidewalk chalk. Fall brought leaf-raking and jumping and mass pumpkin decorating. No one was ever at a loss for some one to hang with trick-or-treating when you had this motley crew. And winter? A battlefield of snowball fights, complete with intricately-constructed snow forts. Not to mention the "token dad" who had the snowblower - my hero!
I came to embrace this little community in which we lived. Here we all were total strangers who, over time, swapped house keys and garage codes. Borrowed cups or sugar and garden tools. Fed each other's kids as if they were our own (I would have never thought of giving my kids Popsicles without having enough for them all!) Took turns picking them up from school and watching them so an overtaxed mom could have a little time off or a couple could have a date night.
It was comforting living there. Sometimes I'd get a call at 11:00 at night alerting me that I'd left my garage door open. Our van was often greeted by cries of "WOO HOO!" as we turned down the street, and the kids would be inundated before we ever made it to the garage. Then there was the rainy weekday that one of the dads came home from work because his wife had alerted him that a family of ducks who had resided in a neighbor's yard had gotten swept into the storm sewer.
We spent one of the most important parts of our lives - raising small kids into big ones - together. But over time, things changed. Slowly, one by one, the gang began to get older and move away. For some, it was a job relocation. For others, the need or desire for a bigger house. When a "For Sale" would go up in a front yard, we all felt as if a little piece of our world was being shipped away in that moving van along with all the boxes.
As the turnover occurred, it became what I refer to now as "The Court 2.0". New families with babies and toddlers have all but replaced the the pre-teens and teens that moved out. My driveway isn't the one covered in sidewalk chalk anymore and I've long since given away the tricycles and training wheels.
I will miss this neighborhood - what it was then, and even what it is now. But it's time. I'm one of the last to leave; the others well-transitioned into their new communities. I think my kids are ready, too - like me, they wax nostalgic for days gone by, but I've given them what I wanted to give them - a childhood just like mine. And having lived here, I know that although a new home will never replace that magical community that was Sesame Street, it just may be as good of a place for us now as this neighborhood was for us then.
And a note to whoever is lucky enough to live here after us? If you want for raising your kids the old-fashioned way - walking them to school, letting them go up to the playground, running from yard to yard without a worry - you'll be very happy here. The neighbors, though not the same ones as when we moved in, are still just as nice. And I'm sure to all of them, it's still Sesame Street. So you'll fit right in. And I hope you'll feel as I do - that I can't imagine having had a better place for my kids and me to call "home".