I took my friend Niki (with my daughter Caity) over to the area where I was raised, over to 2212 N. Mueller, Bethany, Oklahoma - and of course, surrounding neighborhoods. I wanted to show them where it began, maybe given each of them a little more insight as to why I ended up free, easy-going, rather stubborn, a little independent - OK, a lot self reliant maybe, but it was the hood I was raised in, blame it on the environment. The 60's in Oklahoma weren't really all that different from what they were in say - Chicago....except Chicago probably didn't have real, live-dead Indian bones just over the hill, or chained off, quarantined government reservations that were both dangerous and illegal to be traipsing through - but maybe they did.
Bethany wasn't crowded, it was in fact quiet - rather homely, a little woodsy, the neighborhood trees were young, but the woods and fields outside of our immediate homestead were certainly full of loud creatures at night, and scurrying little furry ones during the day. Snakes, lizards, anything that could get away from me did, and I was the first and the best at getting up real early to see the deer jumping over the chain-link fence clearly marked GOVERNMENT PROPERTY - DO NOT TRESPASS. Good thing the deer couldn't read - I used the same excuse for years. I'd actually USE the sign to hoist myself over the fence in order to get a better look at what lay just beyond the forbidden passage - not much actually, not in reality, but in my mind - oh yes.... a great deal of adventure. Sometimes real, and sometimes made up, but always vivid - always explored.
When I was old enough to go to school I had a half-mile walk to get to the building, but it wasn't a straight walk, it wasn't even a paved road walk. My first grade teacher, who just happened to live across the street from me, walked my happy butt (not so happy most of the time if we couldn't play along the way) through the orchards, through the meadow, over the dirt road called Rockwell that today is a 4 lane divided street - cars and everything, and we often hunted squirrels and rabbits along the way. 1967 - a woman in her 70's teaching at the public schools in our town was still allowed to bring her loaded 12-gauge to class with her, and to allow her littlest charge to hold on to the ammo when she wasn't actually shooting dinner. No, I'm not making that up - that part was real. The made up part was her letting me shoot the gun - I could no more have held it than anything - but in my head I did. I was the great hunter, the rabbit - my prey!
The neighborhood has certainly changed. The trees seem overgrown now, often where there wasn't a house before their are entire new sections of development, absolutely no orchards remain, and very little semblance to the days I used to hide out in the wickedly twisted creek rather than going to class - gone are the signs restricting anyone from venturing onto the grounds. That reservation became a park - and get this, it's still dangerous and illegal at night! I think God has something to do with that one, burial grounds should be sacred - or at least left alone so small children and deer can trespass just after dawn.
I drove the car slowly through the exact route that my good friends and I would take from 2212 N. Mueller, all the way to Dunkin Doughnuts on 39th Street, just east of Meridian - of course, I couldn't take the car over the fences, or through the backyards, and in one route diversion - through the living room of a friend's house, but I could go the way we usually walked if we had to walk like the kids do on Charlie Brown shows - taking corners very rigidly. Three point eight miles is the estimated distance - at 7, 8, 9, and 10 years of age - I'm surprised I'm even alive to write this blog - but those were different times. There was a day in 1966, I was just 4 and 1/2 years old, when my mom and I were on our way (walking just under three miles) to the bank to make a deposit - cash. The door wasn't opened for us, instead a very nice man tipped his hat at my mom. He held the door closed and told her she didn't need to make her deposit at this time. His buddy was making a "withdraw", he explained, and their car was still running - just outside the door.
That probably wouldn't happen in Chicago either - but it happened in Bethany that day. When I think about those days - when I let my mind wander - I love Oklahoma.