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La Dolce Vita in Saskatchewan

It might have been Joyce, Jana or Liz. All I can recall right now is that there was a comment made by a female columnist in a Saskatchewan newspaper a few weeks ago about growing up in a neighbourhood filled with kids.

It might have been Joyce, Jana or Liz. All I can recall right now is that there was a comment made by a female columnist in a Saskatchewan newspaper a few weeks ago about growing up in a neighbourhood filled with kids. There were 20 in the block she lived on and several more within shouting distance.

Wow, I thought, how lucky she was to have that many potential friends within a literal stone's throw. Naturally that got my memory bank stoked up and I started to recollect my own childhood neighbourhood. Without even challenging my recall powers, I was able to list 17 kidlets I could legitimately call neighbours within one block and that didn't include my sister, Guy, Roxy, Ron, Harold and Jim who were already in high school and therefore didn't officially qualify as kids anymore although we could persuade them on occasion to join us for a game of road hockey.

My sister hated road hockey. She hated the ice version too. I always thought there was something wrong with her. She must have been adopted from a foreign country I figured. She moved to Ontario shortly after graduating. Served her right. But I digress again.

So here it was. I was envious of a fellow columnist who had grown up with a whole bunch of kids around, but so had I. I just hadn't paid that much attention to that reality.

So what do you have when you get a neighbourhood fully stocked with kidlets all running around with different agendas?

Well, if you're a hard-pressed working parent, you get an early lesson in governance. I'm sure the teen-aged older kids got that too because they were often charged with the responsibilities of keeping us in line. And since there were no official corrals built in the vacant lot between Magnussons and Moores, I guess they excelled in that role. We all lived through our childhood and none of us went to jail. A few broken arms and legs in casts and a few hundred stitches pretty well covered the medical requirements. Chalk one up on the success side of the ledger. Among us we had about 10 resident dogs and seven cats and on occasion, a few extras.

As kids, we learned quick and easy lessons of leadership and teamwork and we also taught ourselves something about volunteerism and acceptance.

Those were the street lessons, not the classroom lessons although they did overlap on occasion.

Leadership began with the "group" deciding who was going to be captain of the street hockey teams, or the leader of the football toss and kick game we called "yards" or the baseball game 25 Pickup. Those gravelled street leaders learned early how to encourage teamwork outside and inside the school playgrounds. And we taught ourselves acceptance and understanding when we made those choices as captains and co-captains.

The same kids didn't get picked last every time for two very good reasons. The first was that if they were continually picked last, they had a tendency to not want to play the next time and we needed bodies of all descriptions and talents. The second reason was also clear enough. Why suffer the slings of hurt feelings when it was so easy to rectify the situation with simple inclusion?

My good friend Rudy and I were a couple of those constant factors in the neighbourhood compact. We probably wore out more baseballs, footballs, hockey sticks and pucks than anyone else in our town. Yes, I said pucks we played road hockey with real pucks not tennis balls and yes, they hurt when you caught a slapshot on an unpadded shin. You then got to dump the villain in the nearest snowbank with a crosscheck from behind the next trip down the icy road that served as our rink. And none of these issues ever had to be handled by a fist fight or a tearful run home to be consoled. If you did, and your parents did happen to be home, they'd send you out again with a dry pair of mittens and a freshened resolve to do better "and make sure you're home by dark!" Sometimes a self-made peanut butter sandwich did the trick.

Certainly these were simpler times and there was less to worry about waaaay back then in prehistoric times before Microsofts and Apples and Twitters. We didn't have to tweet we just shouted or knocked on doors and it was game on.

So thanks to all the kids in my neighbourhood who played and governed and accepted one another, just because we were neighbours. So a big salute to Vern, Dane, Darcy, Kim, Aaron, Dale, Marilyn, Ian, Lorna, Brenda, Carolyn and a few more I've missed and to those old teenagers on our block who taught us how to do the right things through osmosis if nothing else.

A tip of the hat of thankful recognition to you Harold, Jim, Guy, Patsy, Roxy and yes, my departed sister Oralee who taught me a few lessons about respect and values somewhere in that muddle of activity we called living in small town Saskatchewan.