"When I tell friends I grew up in Brooklyn, they seem to imagine a grim cityscape of concrete and brownstone, populated by rowdy gangs of streetwise, tough-talking kids playing stickball in vacant lots twinkling with broken bottles. In fact, ours was a neighborhood more like the main street of a small town, with a block of stately trees, manicured lawns, and rather grand old houses. Like most children, we were unobservant and took nearly everything for granted, but even so we understood that our homes were magical places full of small architectural surprises: stained-glass bay windows, narrow back stairs, porches and porte cocheres, dusty attics, and basements that smelled thrillingly of mold and damp and earth." --Francine Prose, "The Transient Beauty of Fireflies," Victoria, July 1994
Amazing, what you can find flipping through an old magazine. The rest of Prose's article--about the carefree roaming of kids from street to street and yard to yard on summer nights--is achingly reminiscent of my own childhood in Little Neck, Queens, but sadly, no longer a prudent lifestyle for young residents of the sometimes-eventful 70th Precinct. Even our most blissful blocks are too close to a rougher reality (they call it an "Impact Zone" for policing purposes) to permit that lost summer dreamworld of wandering at dusk until Mom called you in. But the fireflies are out, golden-green blinks among the shadowy ferns and roses, and deep summer can still work its magic...even if that magic no longer includes the elixir of youthful freedom.