The greatest childhood ever
by Brian Keaney
Growing up in my neighborhood you left the house at your own risk. It wasn’t criminals you had to worry about – it was the neighbors. If you went away for a weekend you might come back to find your house had been painted a different color, that someone wired your front walk to look like a runway at Logan, your car had been turned into a tank, or that they had broken in and riffled through all your personal belongings.
As if that wasn’t enough, they videotaped all their shenanigans so there would be a record of their illegal but good hearted behavior. This was just the way things happened when you lived within the territory of the Madison Street Committee. This was no normal civic group with dues and bylaws and higher purposes. It was simply a collection of lunatics who somehow all moved into the same stretch of road at the same time.
They did elect an officer each year, a president, but the responsibilities were few and the burdens even heavier. They only real job they had was to organize periodic happy hours where they could abandon their kids at one house and go drinking at another. The burden came, and still exists, in the form of a God-awful, two foot tall, facist-looking maroon eagle that the head of Committee is responsible for displaying prominently in their home for as long as they serve.
Within a span of a few houses there were better than a dozen kids, all relatively close in age. Katie and I were the oldest, and the youngest are now finishing college. It was a tremendously fun place to grow up. A couple years ago my sisters and I kicked our parents out of our house and invited the whole gang over for a reunion. Boyfriends and girlfriends were all invited, as were the two girls who fall in the middle of being too young to be part of our group growing up but are too old to identify with the young kids that are now populating the neighborhood.
For most people – at least for most young people – watching old home movies is a major bore. For us, it was the first thing we did. Seeing Sarah knock Matty over in her rush to get to the Easter Bunny never gets old. Neither does watching the poor slob in the costume have to hop, literally hop, all the way down the street and around the corner because the rest of parents kept the kids watching him from the end of the driveway just to make their friend and neighbor do it. After about the third video one of the outsiders declared, quite correctly, that “you guys had the greatest childhood ever.”
A bunch of us got together last night to see Becca’s boyfriend’s band play at the old Mad Maggies. It was a ton of fun, and the first time so many of us had been all together at once in a while. Sadly, the last time was at Mr. Clegg’s funeral last spring. It was tragically and devestatingly sad, but when you get us together pretty soon any tears will be coming because we are laughing so hard.
Shortly after the funeral I had to tell my dry cleaner that there were grass stains on my suit pants, but I refrained from explaining why. I think he would have looked at me funny if I told him I was on the bottom of human pyramid in the back yard of a man we just buried a few hours earlier. I also got a few laughs telling people that the last time I saw him alive he flipped me off, and that it was about the best way I could possibly remember him. Madison Street is just that kind of place.
Last night the youngest brought her new boyfriend for all of us to meet for the first time. The poor guy had to endure endless recanting of vacations that he never went on, pranks that he was never privy to, and endless stories for which he had no context and couldn’t possibly understand the jokes. Like The Boss, we all went down the well and drank till we got our fill, but more importantly we relived our glory days. Mr. Springsteen might not want to get old sitting around and thinking about it, but I know we all will.