Walking to her house was the only time I was allowed to go past the blue house that was 4 houses down. Walking up the street the other way (at that time) the streed dead-ended in a huge expanse of field full of these bushes that were covered in small yellow flowers and grew taller than my head. Our street was a solitary incursion into this field. I don't recall there being a specific boundary to our play if we walked into the field. Today as a parent I'd be more afraid about what could happen in that maze of an empty field than on a tree-less suburban neighborhood street, but I guess times were different then. Or perhaps I just never paid attention anyway, preferring to lose myself in the flowers and army ant hills and weeds than listen to my mother.
Although, after my parents were referred to DCFS for neglect my mother bought an airhorn and I was forced to listen to her. See, one of the charges against my mother was that she didn't keep good enough track of us kids. Partially that was something trumped up to try to add credibility to the main charge that we were being raised without moral guidance (they knew we weren't Mormon, thank the Goddess they didn't know we were pagans!) and part of that was because The Brother Just Younger than I had a severe case of ADHD and a very creative way of dealing with people who angered him. My parents did their best to ride herd on him, but oh lordie, if you've ever had a child like that you know how hard it can be to keep them from taking inappropriate revenge. Especially since a lot of the times the revenge was damn funny and exacted for a perceived hurt to his mother. Still, even though my mother was so very depressed during my childhood, she kept good track of us. She always knew at whose house we were playing. And if she didn't know how often I wandered in the field, well, that's just because I was sneaky and The Brother Just Younger Than I was a good distraction to cover my own misdeeds. But, since someone in the neighborhood had reported her as not doing a good enough job, she decided that she would let that person know everytime she checked on us. By blowing her very loud airhorn several times a day.
When we heard the airhorn we were supposed to drop what we were doing and go out to where our mother could see us and wave at her: if she waved us in we had to go home immediately, if she waved us off we could return to playing.
I think she got a real kick from sounding that airhorn, cause I remember days when I swear it sounded every 15 minutes.
Notice the mostly-closed curtains in the background. This was during the several years that natural light did not willingly or easily enter our home. Seriously, if I hadn't had friends whose parents kept the curtains open I would have understood windows to be only decorations for the outside of your house. Even now closed curtains during the daytime have the power to throw me into a downward spiral by evoking those dark, quiet years of my mother's isolation and depression.
Oh, the picture! There are actually two in this "series" but I don't have the first. In the first we're all grouped just like that but we're behaving. Then my dad whispered to us to do something silly for the next picture so just before mom snapped we each did something silly, while dad just sat there with a long-suffering look on his face.
I stole this picture from my mom years ago because I think it so perfectly expresses what my family was like in this moment of time: me shy and fanciful and wary but willing to engage in mischief; He Who Would Grow Up With the Ability To Sell Snow to Polar Bears gesturing outward with a decisive and good-natured hand signal of contempt; The Brother Just Younger than I trying to contain himself for the sake of his mother's feelings, but unable to keep that tongue from complying with the silliness; my dad sitting in the middle of it all with his ubiquitous cap and his winter beard, orchestrating the mutiny while pretending not to be part of it. And my mother unseen in the background, trying to do what she felt a wife and mother should do: take pictures of her family, make costumes for her daughter's dance class, keep track of her children in a way that our uptight and sanctimonious neighbors could understand.