I grew up in the Fan District of Richmond, Virginia. My parents moved us there before it was the cool thing to do, before the yuppies showed up. As noted here, I was a bit afraid of rapists and such, but the trade-off was that I grew up in an environment that was filled with diverse and interesting people. Very interesting people lived in the Fan in the 1970s-1980s. The neighborhood was a mix of artists and the elderly, students from nearby VCU, single moms, gay couples, and young families–just like mine. At the time I thought nothing of the fact that I was living next to (I grew up in a row house, so when I say next to, I mean next to) what could be loosely defined as a cross-section of Americans, but to a great extent, I was. I learned a lot about tolerance and acceptance growing up in the Fan, but through osmosis not lectures.
One of the people my brother and I spent time with was a musician who lived next door. His name was Gary and he played in what was one of Richmond’s most popular new wave bands: Single Bullet Theory. Across the street from us lived another musician, Robbin Thompson, who along with Steve Bassett, penned and sang one of Virginia’s unofficial state songs, Sweet Virginia Breeze. Both Gary and Robbin found the time to talk music with my brother, who at a very young age determined it to be a passion. And they didn’t talk down to him, they treated him with respect. They chatted with me too, usually about sports. I knew I was a kid and they were the adults, but because of those conversations, I also felt important and valued, something that all children need to feel.
I am grateful that I was able to grow up around adults who were both talented and giving. Giving of their time and willing to share their experience and talent. My neighbors always made time to talk to me, even if it was just a wave of the hand followed by a quick greeting.
Unfortunately, I rarely talk to my neighbor’s kids, I would, but I never see them. That wasn’t the case when we lived in Atlanta, but my kids were younger then, so maybe I was outside more often? I do try to give the children I interact with, be they friends of my kids, children of my friends, or just someone I might run into while I am out and about, some of my time and attention. I don’t think it can be stated enough how important positive interactions are, for both the kids and adults. It really does take a village–y’all.
No doubt that my parents had the greatest influence on me when I was growing up, but I’d put my neighbors, not my teachers, in the number two slot. So, for today’s Flashback~Forget About it-Friday I am giving a virtual shout-out to the grown ups who listened to and encouraged me when I was a kid–the ones that weren’t paid to do so.
What role did neighbors play in your life when you were growing up?
And, if you want to read another take on this topic here’s a great post from Hilary.
While you think about this, here’s a video from Single Bullet Theory circa 1982. Gary is wearing glasses and playing guitar. I was in the crowd for the concert scene–thankfully, I cannot be identified. Watch if for no other reason than to laugh at how similar today’s fashions are to those worn then.