Creating more Playborhoods

playInspired by this article of the Playborhood concept for kids and neighborhoods, I am reminded of my own experience when I was a kid, growing up in Clifton, NJ, a suburb of Manhattan.

After school was spent over my friends’ house, 3 brothers: Mike, Daniel and Jeremy.  Their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lee had devoted themselves to their children and creating an environment both inside and outside their home where their children and their friends could learn, discover and play.  They were teachers by profession and their love of children was palpable.

In their backyard, Mr. Lee had build a wooden fort, with a ladder to climb u to the top and in the ‘basement’ of the fort was a sandbox.

I remember spending hours in that sandbox in the summer, using a colander to sift the sand to make it as fine a powder as I possibly could.  I was and am always fascinated with texture, nature and the earth.

The brothers would join me for awhile, but they were more interested in climbing up and on the fort, or playing on the swingset nearby.

In the humid heat of a NJ summer, their outdoor pool was also a soothing retreat.

But it wasn’t just their backyard that was a playground on my street, our street itself, St. James Place, also became our world to kick ball, pop tar bubbles in the summer heat or roller skate down.

There were no ‘scheduled’ playdates, they just happened, after school or on the weekend.  We were pretty much left to our own devices.  Our parents would call us in for meals and such and of course, when it got dark, we were expected to be home.

But we had freedom to discover ourselves through play.

In the cooler months, we retreated inside their home to the basement rec room.  There were legos, building blocks, Lincoln logs and in the back room, Mr. Lee had set up his model railroad.

There was also an Apple computer with very early ‘video games’.  There was a haunted house game we would play, but the computer wasn’t the sole focus of what we did.  And of course, these were different times.  We weren’t hooked in to the internet.

It was more fun to create our own worlds with the other toys that we could get our hands on.

I am really grateful for that experience.  I wonder, those reading this, did you have a Playborhood growing up?

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Sweet 16 Reflections of Happiness

167905_1778247427037_2827614_nMy 16th year of life was probably the best of my whole teenage experience.  I was a junior in high school and life felt effortless and free.  This photo captures a lot of that.  I remember hanging out with friends, listening to a lot of 80’s hair bands like Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Judas Priest, Def Leppard, Twisted Sister, Poison, Cinderella, Ratt and the first band I got into, Van Halen, which by 1996 had broken up and were forming Van Hagar and David Lee Roth’s solo career.

Living in New Jersey, we listened to the NY Howard Stern radio, watched MTV, went to the mall, once in awhile took the bus or train into Manhattan down into the Village and of course, during the summer, went down the shore.

In NJ, you get a learner’s permit at 16 and a driver’s license at 17, so I remember being driven around a lot by friends that year, and then later, by my first ‘serious’ boyfriend, Brian Shook.  He was (and still is) totally into hockey, so I remember watching a lot of games on TV with him and his best friend.  We’d eat Twinkies and Yoo-Hoo, this chocolate shake like drink, I haven’t seen out here in the West, but I’m sure you could still probably find it.

My friend Ann-Marie (in the photo with me) and our other gal pals, Gina and Lynn went to an unforgettable rock concert together (I’ll have to scan the photos).  Stern’s radio station had a contest to win the chance for Bon Jovi to come play at their school.  The private school I had gone to won the contest and my Dad was on the Board of Directors, so he was able to score me 4 tickets.  It was like winner the teenage lottery!

All 4 of us got decked out in 80’s zebra stripe/leather skirts and big hair and got to have an intimate experience with my favorite band on the planet.  My friend Ann-Marie even jumped on Jon Bon when he was leaving to go into his limo.  And my Dad went into the band’s ‘green room’ (the boys gym locker room) and got Richie Sambora’s autograph for us.

It’s a year I’ll probably always cherish.  I’m grateful and of course incredibly happy when I reminisce about it!

Eileen Dey 2014

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