In the 50s all the boys in our neighborhood emerged from the womb in the same year, or so it seemed. Our fathers grew to adulthood in the strange and distant theatres of the War. They came home en masse and mounted our mothers en masse and voila, the many were born. And our mothers? They were poorly equipped to deal with soul-sick husbands and a mounting number mouths at every meal. Many found satisfaction in, or solace from, scotch or Psalms, sometimes both.
Television was newly on the scene, but it remained an oddity in our neighborhood — a luxury as long as the family had only one car. In the evenings our parents listened to radio and sipped cocktails behind open jalousie windows. And every window was open. The more wealthy or less pragmatic enjoyed the new technology of air conditioning, which mitigated the sweat of summer and made suburbia in the South a coming quick future.
But we children knew none of that. This newly turned clod of dirt was our shiny suburbia and it offered lots of kids our own age to play with. Getting enough gloves for a sand-lot ball game was a breeze. Age segregation came to us later in our young lives.
In the evenings we kids entertained ourselves by assembling quick to run behind the DDT trucks which came grumbling down our black tar roads, those still soft from the summer sun. The spray trucks came most evenings of the late spring and summer. When they did we were bug free and happy, and there was no worry of what might come from our dance in the DDT.
At the dinner table our ears strained for the low rumble of the fat barreled spray trucks and we abandoned our forks at the first chance. The trucks spewed a blanketing white fog, surprisingly deleterious we later found. They progressed so slowly that even the most rump-sprung among us could keep pace.
Our parents, fresh from the war, but more freshly from work and worry, ignored and even encouraged our games behind the truck. Most dangerous was a game called Headlight. We boys would hide in the bushes along the side of the road, obscured by the DDT fog, then dart across the street through a car’s headlights. The brighter the illumination, the better the run, but also the closer the car. Winners, chosen each night, were expected to defend their title the next evening.
The game was dangerous, but the milieu was more so. Here’s a poem recent from me brain:
We danced in the darking,
white fog and red taillights,
a high-beam team tag
in a killing veil mist
with no known half-life
Innocents or innocence?
God and our parents were unclear.
Cocktails for two, m’dear?