The Piano Player
November 2, 2016, The Piano Player
I think she was 5 on the day she turned up missing. Not to worry, this is not about a sad event. We lived in a neighborhood. Houses, trees, families with dogs, kids playing outside until dark, and what you did got to your mom before you got home. It was a neighborhood where you could ride your bike around the block on the side walk or in the street. While you might not know the names of everybody on the block, you could pretty well give a description of who lived where.
Around the corner at the far end of the block lived a Catholic family with 5 kids. I knew they were Catholic because the kids didn’t go to my school. Chicago had (and I suspect still do) public schools and Catholic schools. In my neighborhood it was either one or the other. If the kids down the block didn’t go to my school (Clissold) that meant they were Catholic and went to Saint Cajetan’s – end of conversation. I share this because this was one of those houses where you know who they are, but that was about it.
On this day my little sister decided to walk around the block, which of and by itself was not that unusual. The unusual part was she didn’t make it all the way around in a realistic time. So I hopped on my bike and did the block in record time. No little sister is to be found. Now mom and dad begin the search by going around the block and stopping at each house.
When they get to the house around the corner there is little sister inside, sitting at their piano playing. As the story unfolds, it seems that just as she was passing the neighbor's house, a car with a family pulled up at the curb. The mom, dad, and their 5 kids got out and were greeted by our neighbors. The sidewalk count now was 4 adults and 10 children + 1. As they all went into the house, little sister decided that it looked like it might be fun, and in she went. No one questioned who the little girl playing the piano was because - “If she is not one of ours, she must be one of theirs”. It sort of sounds like a TV sit com with a happy ending.
I share the story because it highlights a truth simply stated - It was a different time with different rules. We all walked the three blocks to school. School lunch was from 12:00 – 1:00. A few kids brown bagged it and ate in a classroom. Some bought lunch at Fisher's School Store across from the school. Most of us went home for lunch. I always ran both ways so I could get back to the playground and shoot marbles with my friends. My grandparents lived a block from the school and the Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian, and the Baptist's churches were all less than two blocks from my house.
I could share more but the idea I hope you get is that growing up as a part of that neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago was more than just a place to live and go to school. It was about living in relationship to the world around me, and to be honest, there are times when I really miss that.
Moral – Having a relationship to the world around us happens, even if we don’t notice it at the time.