Jarvis Street
by John Norberg, humor columnist s

It's one of those things that just happen in life -- against all the odds.

I was in the alley behind my house, running off energy in my PF Flyers on a warm summer evening. For reasons I will never understand I threw a stone into the air ? as hard as I could. Maybe I just wanted to see how high it would go.

Unfortunately, not being as well versed in science or common sense I should be, I failed to take into consideration the law of universal gravitation as brilliantly expressed by Sir Isaac Newton in Philosophi? Naturalis Principia Mathematica published in 1687.

In short and in English: what goes up must come down.

And the stone came down.

Right on top of Janice Peters' head.

I could feel her pain as she ran home.

I feel absolutely terrible about this. Granted it happened 55 years ago, so long ago that most of the people alive today were not even yet born. But I've carried the guilt to this day.

I haven't seen Janice for almost that many years and I always assumed there was some correlation.

But last week Janice found me on the Worldwide Refrigerator Door where everyone posts family photos and private information: Facebook. I responded immediately, expressed more than half century of guilt and apologized once again as I had done so many years ago.

She replied that she still has a slight dent in the top of her head from that stone.

Oh no! The thought of a friend going through life with a dent in her head cause by me with an assist from a stone and some stuff written 325 years ago in Philosophi? Naturalis Principia Mathematica was overwhelming.

I heard from Janice last week just as children were going back to school and summer was coming to an abrupt end -- as it always must. Her message and the fading summer brought forth a flood of 55-year-old memories that fortunately overtook my guilt.

I grew up on a block ? not a street, but a block -- in a neighborhood in a town outside Chicago. And it was wonderful.

As a young boy when school let out in the spring the long summer stretched before me like an endless field of baseball, bike riding, swimming, lying in the grass, cloud gazing, daydreaming.

In those days our mothers were home and very busy. They got us up, fed and out the door early. Our unspoken but well understood instructions were to play, come home for lunch, play, be home for dinner, play and be back when the streetlights came on.

The whole neighborhood was our backyard and every mother knew every kid well enough to scold or give a cookie. There was Janice, Greg, Bruce, Barbara, Jeff, Susan, Linda Nancy, Ron, Doug, Donny and many more, all ages, boys and girls, all playing together.

I don't remember the summers being so hot then, but I'm sure they were. We didn't have air conditions so going outside didn't feel hot. Going outside felt wonderful and free. The world ? or at least our neighborhood ? was filled with fun and adventure.

In the quiet summer evenings after dinner and before the streetlights came on we would often gather in the backyard at Janice's house. Her father would bring out his guitar. We sat knees crossed on the grass and as the sun set we sang the wonderful songs of our childhood: "On Top of Old Smoky," "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," "Down In The Valley," "This Old Man" . . .

It would seem like the evening might go on forever. But in time the streetlights popped on, Mr. Peters played "Good Night Ladies" and then "Good Night Gentlemen" and we knew it was time to go home where a root beer float we called a "black cow" would greet me before bedtime.

I considered Janice my first girl friend. I don't know what she considered me. A rock-throwing pest who didn't understand the basics of Philosophi? Naturalis Principia Mathematica Mathematical, I imagine.

All things come to an end. Janice was the first to leave our neighborhood. Her family moved to California. Not too many years later my family moved, too.

It was a long time ago. But part of me is still there and always will be -- in the old neighborhood surrounding Jarvis Street, breathing the freedom that comes from being a boy in an endless summer, surrounded by love, a mellow guitar and childhood friends singing "On Top of Old Smokey."

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