Memories and Musings: Suburban Solitude

Published 9:51 am Sunday, October 3, 2021

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By Gene Gallelli

After being discharged from active duty in the Navy – my ship’s home port was Little Creek, Virginia – I took a job teaching sixth grade in Orchard Park, New York, home of the Buffalo Bills.

My bride and I lived in a wonderful apartment In Buffalo for two years – our first daughter, Lisa, was born there – before building our “dream house” in nearby West Seneca. It was in a large subdivision with three home styles made to look different by shingles, siding and different brick facades.

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Our second daughter, Tara, was born about a year after we moved into our gray, raised ranch with a colonial brick facade.

Not only was every lot in our court filled with one of the three style options, but the neighborhood had twice as many school-age children as there were houses.

It didn’t take long before a handful of those aforementioned children became legendary and gained reputations for their exploits:

“Cowboy Joe,” who always wore his boots on the wrong feet, collected building materials and lawn statuary. I saw him dragging a two-by-four past our house at dusk.

Across the street, “Ice Cream Curt,” would raid garage freezers of popsicles and ice cream treats, but only the flavors he preferred.

Probably the most notorious of the Munchkin mob was a five-year-old whose four-letter vocabulary was the scorn of neighborhood parents. My wife and I believed our daughters would never listen to “bad” language, then one Saturday morning our youngest let loose with a classic from her bedroom window. Like many shocked parents, I made the mistake of asking, “What did you say?!” And, of course, she said it again.

Last but not least of the street “terrors” was our first born who made even the sidewalks dangerous with her Big Wheel – remember those? – she got for Christmas. Lisa had three speeds: fast, faster, and fastest. “Watch out for, Lisa!” became another familiar neighborhood chant.

Perhaps, we tend to glorify the “good ol’ days,” as a rebuke to modern-day dilemmas, but it can be so relaxing to look out the front window and imagine my daughter flying by in her Big Wheel or “Cowboy Joe” dragging a two-by-four down the street.

I still have popsicles in the indoor freezer, even though we don’t have a Curt living nearby; and my youngest might occasionally let a word slip out that’s blush-worthy, but never through a window.

It’s funny how, upon reflection, the silly childhood behaviors of our now-adult children have evolved into funny, endearing memories.

Life is good.

Gene Gallelli was Associate Superintendent of the Dare County Schools for eight years. He received his Doctor of Education degree from East Carolina University, where he taught and supervised students studying to become school administrators.