Too much indulgence at dinner drove a desire to move, and I went out in the dark night to walk the street. I’ve walked this street many times over the last twenty years, thinking too much at times. For fifteen of those years I had a loyal companion, Bodhi, who was patient with me even as I wasn’t always patient with him. Labradors want to explore the world on their own terms, and when he was younger I wrestled with his instincts and my selfish desire to keep moving. As we got older together I learned to slow down, and regret not giving him enough time to linger on the neighborhood dog message boards he inevitably sniffed and marked along the way. Perhaps he was complaining about the short leash I’d give him, but he wasn’t one to complain much.
The neighborhood has changed in twenty years. People come and go, usually from the same houses, while the rest of us anchor the cul du sac with memories of block parties, eventful storms, swarms of kids trick-or-treating on Halloween, and the occasional scandal. Some quirky people, some gossiping and manipulative hens, some hard chargers, and at least one oddball who walked in the dark at 10 PM every night with his dog. But we all tended to look out for one another in some fashion.
Of the hundred or so people who have lived on this street these twenty years, we’ve seen our share of drama. Three couples divorced, two people went to prison, two women had breast cancer and one man chopped his fingers off trying to clear his snowblower. They stitched them back on, but it dominated conversation for a few weeks. But there’s plenty of good on the street too. Kids who grew up, went to college and became contributing members of society. Successful careers, at least one book published on the street and one aspiring author working to add another, a locally famous weatherman, and a few recent retirees checking the box on a career. The American dream, and some of the drawbacks to pursuing it, all on one street.
The biggest, most expensive home on the street is directly behind my own house. The cul du sac loops around like a “j” with a long driveway leading back to the big house, creating a “u”. It’s twice the size of my own home, with a five car garage, movie theater, fitness room and a stunning view of rolling fields of a horse farm. The long driveway is lined with light poles on either side, which we derisively call the runway when lit up. The house has changed hands three times in twenty years. The first owner was a crooked chiropractor who went to prison for a large scale insurance scam he orchestrated. He built a flashy house, drove both a Hummer and a Dodge Viper and trolled for young women on the streets of Lawrence, Massachusetts while his wife was home raising children. His house of cards came crashing down and his wife and children had to move out of the neighborhood to a condo in another town while his accommodations were more sparse. That house has turned twice since then but we still refer to it as the original owners house.
Walking the street alone at 10 PM doesn’t feel quite right anymore. The street is the same yet everything is different. Late evening walks are best done with a companion. Bodhi is gone, the kids are in different corners of the world, and my bride has surrendered to prime time television. But I walked anyway, if only to digest a bit, to think, and in the futile hope of seeing a few shooting stars. Streaky overcast skies offered a glimpse of a few stars and a hazy moon, but wasn’t going to pull the covers off for a proper show. Just me and the acorns falling. And memories of twenty years on a single street in New Hampshire.