I remember last summer in September, I had biked to my old neighborhood in Lake Nokomis, a beautiful district in south Minneapolis.
I was biking alone, it was a far haul, and I anticipated the possibility of being mugged or stalked, as it was late when I had arrived, but it did not quench my nostalgic curiosity. I first biked past my old block, then my home at the end of the block, once an average house now updated with a guard railing that guides the entry sidewalk to the door, a bike rack on its front lawn, a beautiful garden brimming with exotic and strange plants, two skylights on its roof and minor updated details after seven years of absence.
I biked through the neighborhood square of East 50th street, where nightlife was always subtle yet thriving in their own right. I biked past the ever changing café restaurant, Nokomis Food Pride Grocery (formally a Jubilee), Super America, Pizza Hut, the Bowling Lanes and a Bakery I would always indulge a doughnut at after making a weekly visit to the public library.
Meandering the many blocks and streets, I easily located my old Elementary School, Keewaydin. It was almost early autumn, so the recreational fields were lit up by the floodlights with children in their knee-high socks and pads, jerseys and running shorts, practicing soccer for the upcoming season. It brought me back to those young cool evenings of donning my denim shorts and Nokomis Hardware (a nearby Ace Hardware Store as my team’s sponsor) soccer jersey, to kick around a ball and fashion a child’s sense-of-pride and sportsmanship while being watched by my parents off-field. It was a wonderful memory watching the scrimmages on my bike from the top of the hill.
Lucky Number “3” with the red socks, denim shorts, and bowl cut ftw (with Keewaydin looming over in the background) #2000represent
I traversed to another nearby Elementary School which was once my afternoon and summer daycare when both my parents had worked full time (and near the eve of my mother’s pregnancy), Morris Park, where other such memories bloomed.
I remembered how much closer my entire family was at this time, bonded by the common delights of childhood before the middle school era of self-centeredness and moody hormones dividing (and in rare cases, bringing closer) my cousins and I. Looking at the empty pool of Morris Park’s playground, I could still see us all playing aggressively in the imaginary water. The recollection was so bright and sunny, and good. It was such a perfect and anticipating time which preceded a contrastive, dark age I don’t think anyone in my shoes could expect.
My elementary best friend Tyler noticed my status update on facebook and messaged me. Keeping infrequent contact since I had moved to Farmington after the fifth grade, and not seeing him since Camp Wapo, a Lutheran bible camp, in the sixth grade, he wanted to meet me at Nokomis Café to catch up in person after some six or seven years. I was enthralled.
I biked under the night shade to an obscure setting of metal wire chairs and tables in front of a shaded café just closed, its neon lights and inside vending machines still illuminated. A deep call, a transmutation of an incredibly familiar voice, spoke my name.
It was Tyler, smoking a Marlboro, sitting down in one of the chairs, his dirty blonde hair neatly cut and glowing in the ambient city-lit skies and streetlights. A kid of short stature and evident boyhood of all my years I had known him, he remarked in surprise my beard and growing pey’ot (sideburns), and I the lack of his pre-pubescent voice he had maintained since we last spoke well into the age of puberty.
It was a wonderful meeting. I was somewhat taken back by the fact that he smoked, and most of our conversation was laced by discussion of marijuana and urban exploring, but I was not as surprised or disturbed by the talk as I thought I’d be. Tyler had a strong spiritual side albeit the common socially unacceptable behaviors he recreated with. He told me he stopped attending church because of the “feel-good” preaching that stained and corrupted sermons in modern-day America. I eagerly agreed.
He asked me if I had found someone, and I explained to him a failing relationship I was in although I was still prospective in wanting children and moving overseas. Tyler was very impressed by this. I asked him if he wanted a family, and his answer was “someday, but no time soon.”
I do understand this “someday”. I am not ready for children, but I kept bringing up how badly I wanted them. Tyler offered me a puff, and I respectfully declined.
A few of Tyler’s friends had showed up, and an old acquaintance I recognized, Marty, the “camp-clown” I remembered so fondly from Wapo, approached with a couple of other guys. We exchanged goodbyes and Marty awkwardly shook my hand as I gave Tyler a shake and a pat on the back.
I kept caution of the Somali mobs that had grown in my old neighborhood as Tyler had mentioned, but I had made it home safely that night. And since that summer and such meeting, my desire for having kids has grown, inspired by the golden age that was my own childhood.
But there is so much more to having children than wanting it. It is such a heavy, disputed and life-changing puzzle to take on. I want my children to have the most trouble-free and fond growth as possible, but knowing that I am going to be the conflicted State of Israel, and keeping in mind that I have no idea on how the other side of the story is going to approach raising children, my ‘isha, this creates a light fog of how I am going, or should, raise them.
I can only improve on myself, adapting humility, acting selflessly, and always looking for the best for and in others. Perhaps I will move from Israel and raise my family once I have taken aliyah. I have unwavering faith, although tested, that everything else will fall into place with time and sense.
I feel that when my son or daughter is born, I too will feel much like a kid again, if not become one; my youth will return to me once I have a youth to call my own. I desire that.