I grew up in the best neighborhood in
What made Colonial Acres such a great place? It had everything a kid could want. First of all, we were uniquely situated. Our neighborhood sat right on
There was a tiny stream that started in the woods and trickled along through the marsh and down to the bay. When I was about six or seven and my sister was seven or eight and our neighbor friend, Sarah Carpenter, was about eight or nine, we each had a little light blue, hard plastic shell of a boat with one wooden paddle. Each boat was just big enough for a little girl to sit in. We’d take these to the place where the stream from the marsh almost reached the bay, and paddle ourselves up and down for hours. We probably could have drowned. (When we were a little older, we had real boats, and sailed them on the bay.)
There was a little foot bridge at this same spot that we’d play on, too. And on the opposite side there was a private beach with huge rocks piled on top of each other, forming a great wall. We totally ignored the “Danger: Keep Off Rocks” sign. We climbed all over them. We’d find little “rooms” down between them and play house. We probably could have been crushed to death.
We used to do a little impromptu fishing at this same location. We’d pull a long piece of beach grass to use as a pole. Then we’d pry a slipper shell away from a rock and crack it open. We’d take the clam out of it, carefully rip a hole in it, thread the beach grass through and tie it on as bait. Then we’d lie down on our stomachs on the bank of the stream, holding our makeshift poles with the bait in the water, and patiently wait for a school of chubs to swim by. As soon as we had a nibble, we’d yank the whole thing out onto the bank.
There was a fresh water pond in the neighborhood, too, behind the
We had woods in our neighborhood, with an intricate network of trails. We knew them all well. This is where we learned to identify all kinds of growing things, from skunk cabbage to poison ivy to lady slippers. It was supposedly against the law to pick a lady slipper. Teenagers who had come before us had dug an incredible system of tunnels in the woods, the tops covered over with old sheets of plywood. As small kids, we were always a little afraid we’d find actual teenagers in the tunnels, but we never did. They were long gone by the time we discovered their handiwork.
Back in one corner of the woods was an old abandoned fort built high in a tall, straight oak tree. There were wooden rungs nailed up the trunk. We never knew who had built it or how long it had been there. We probably could have fallen through rotting boards to our little deaths.
We had a haunted house, too. It was right through the woods from our
We had an assortment of excellent climbing trees spread throughout the neighborhood. Maryellen Clark was the very best climber. She could make her way up any tree. Sometimes we’d each make a lunch and meet in a tree to eat.
One of the most convenient features of our neighborhood was that a good many of the houses were summer homes. We had the run of their yards for three quarters of every year. This was really great in winter when we had snow.
Wildlife was everywhere. Our yards were inhabited by rabbits, skunks, squirrels, raccoons, turtles, and toads. And all kinds of birds. A salamander under every rock.
And every house had an outdoor shower so you could rinse the sand off when you came up from the beach.
Each town’s fire station blew a lunch whistle at every day. From our neighborhood, we could hear the
It was a great place to grow up. I’m sad that my parents have left it, but it’s not quite the same anymore anyway. Someone bought up most of the woods and built a motel. Miss Mackey and her brother are long gone, and so is their house. A gift shop stands in its place. I can’t climb trees like I used to. And I don’t think there’s a lunch whistle anymore, either, so if I were there, I’d never know when it was time to go home.