As children, we’re protected by our own ignorance. You think of the average child, growing up and coming into contact with other children. What do they see? Who do they know? It’s easy at 55 to say, “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.” How many figurative bullets we dodged growing up protected by our own ignorance. My sister said to me this morning when talking about this very thing, “That’s the way Mom and Dad wanted it for us.” I think, now, after the conversation my sister and I had this morning that a debt of gratitude is owed to my parents for that very thing. The reason is because of where we grew up and how we grew up. Typically, in the mid-1960s, early 1970s, Albany Park in Chicago was one of those neighborhoods where children were not experiencing anything all that similar to children growing up in say, Humboldt Park or Cabrini Green. But we did have our share of, “issues.”
I recall the explosions we heard from the “deep tunnel project” that sounded like large booms growing up at Lawrence and Sacramento, a block or two from the south entrance to River Park and a block or two west of the Chicago River. Perhaps a weather scare or two where we needed to run the the basements of our large apartment buildings for cover and safety until the storms passed. Growing up we espoused the notion you pretty much knew everyone on your block that was similar to you in age with whom you crossed paths walking to and from school. Daily bike rides that never went much further than only a few blocks from home. Our purview of people, places and things around us was limited being protected by our own ignorance. Rose colored glasses and hindsight do some very strange things to us later in life for our own sanity’s sake. But they also block out what was really going on sometimes.
Living in Albany Park was not idyllic by any stretch of the imagination at Monticello and Leland, our next neighborhood after Lawrence and Sacramento. “Kids will be kids,” is something we heard our teachers whisper in our school hallways to each other as the solution to the philosophical syllogism, 1) Kids are protected by their own ignorance, 2) You cannot protect children from nor predict which children will be touched by violence, murder, robbery and urban blight in neighborhoods in Chicago in the 1970s leading to the syllogistic conclusion, 3) kids will be kids. This is how most conversations ended back then. There wasn’t any of this stuff we now have in our schools today. And for as naive and rose-colored and “old-person reminiscing” all that sounds, there comes a time when one does recall being touched by something other than the Pleasant Valley Sundays of our youth and being protected by our own ignorance.
The second you see someone other than yourself doing something perhaps, different. Assembling and working on a “minibike” in a northside alley behind an apartment building or bungalow. Kids in the park clustered, smoking cigarettes. Kids playing with matches or fireworks. Snakes. Bottle Rockets. Loud voices uttering expletives, standing around laughing, pushing each other, playful shoving. Alley softball games. Pinners. (A game where you bounced a ball on the lowest stair on set of stairs as pitcher and the outfielder was the person catching that bounced ball as it flew off and away from the bounce. I think only nothsiders played, “pinners”.) None of these things alone or by themselves – individually – remarkable in any way. But the second you’re called over from your own reality, taken from your own head and brush up against a, “pack mentality”? A different world. “Look at what those kids are doing over there.” Etc.
No longer protected by your own ignorance. Not protected by by what my sister said earlier today as something, “Mom and Dad wanted for us.” A slippery slope. I’m not going to recount whose lives were touched by theft, violence, ignorance or anything one might experience going out into the world. Suffice to say, we all know someone, “who. . . .”
Today, I take a step back and thank whatever Power that might exist that I had the upbringing I had, was able to avoid – for the most part – the worst things happening in a changing world in the late 1960s and early 1970s in Albany Park in Chicago. And today I thank for the fact I have people who understand what it is I’m trying to say here in today’s blog. it’s not easy growing up in any decade, any neighborhood and what point along the childhood to maturity spectrum you find yourself. Temptations and other influences exist everywhere all the time protected or unprotected by your own ignorance.
You pray for families whose lives were touched by those challenges and you tell your parents you love them. And you thank them for raising you as they did.
Because that’s what human beings do.
And because not everyone ever is completely protected by their own ignorance.
Post # 1191. Word Count. 867