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Chris Piombo: Stirring up memories of parenthood

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Posted: Saturday, September 23, 2017 2:30 pm

It’s 4 a.m. and a burst of lightning crashes through the window. That’s odd. White hot lightning but no thunder. I count “One thousand one, one thousand two…” Nothing. It’s an electrical storm, dancing across the Lodi sky in the early morning hours last week.

The photo op flash effect and my curiosity tug me from my bed. I walk downstairs and suddenly memories of my children when they were little flood into my tired and defenseless brain. The kids are both away at college now, off on their own for the first time. The lightening stirs recollections of nights many years ago. “Papa ... Papa ... can you see the lightning?” they would call out from their bedrooms. We would snuggle together in the loft and enjoy the show. Their bedroom doors stand open tonight, reminders that they are off taking on the world.

Bolts skitter across the sky minus the rumble of their cousins. I head out to the front porch to watch nature do her thing. My mind drifts into the nostalgia zone, traveling back to the time when the kids on the block played and laughed and grew up together. The echoes of those times are still there though the basketball hoops and Slip and Slides and Whiffle balls are all gone.

Another burst overhead. Once more I can hear the “clink” sound as one of the youngsters drops their metal bat and dashes around the make believe base paths in the cul-de-sac. His pre-teen opponents squeal as they chase the ball into the neighbor’s yard, racing against the batter and impending adolescence. I see wrestling matches on the front lawn, “Crush the Carrier” (the 2000’s version of the game we played under another name), and an impromptu concert on our front lawn one afternoon where five of the neighborhood kids took out their band instruments and played for anyone within earshot.

I see the boys coming home with grass-stained Morada Little League uniforms and the girls jumping out of the family van dressed in sweaty Pacific FC soccer uniforms.

I remember the neighborhood children ringing our doorbell at the beginning of each school year, shyly asking us to buy cookie dough or popcorn. I see fresh pumpkins on nearby front porches, carved with determined but inexperienced young hands, leaving the orange globes with hard to make out ghosts and goblins. Those same youngsters come to our door a few nights later hoping for a little extra candy, leaving without knowing we actually did recognize them in their Little Mermaid or Jack Sparrow costumes. I recall the remote control cars that zoom past our house on Christmas morning. The scooters and new bikes soon follow. There are pop flies that went higher than the street lights and games of “Pickle” and touch football in the street. There are chalked Hopscotch boxes on every driveway and Power Ranger battles in every front yard.

I see the kids mowing the front lawn, backing Mom’s car out of the driveway at tippy toe pace on the way to their first driving lesson and dancing in the street as their dad lights off the coolest fireworks you’ve ever seen on the Fourth of July.

I see the same kids out front dressed like young royalty awaiting the big white stretch limousine that would take them to the prom. I watch them as their suitors spend countless hours on their front porch gingerly stepping through the minefield of parents, puberty, and first love. I see them dressed in the red and white cap and gowns as they gather for one last group photo before excitedly heading off to the Spanos Center for graduation and real life.

The youngsters that grew up in our neighborhood are now living on college campuses from Nebraska and Reno to Sacramento and Berkeley to Riverside and San Diego. It is both natural and necessary. Hopefully as parents we did our jobs well. The memories are still out there in the neighborhood but now they are of more use to our children than they are to us.

Chris Piombo is a local family man, coach and marathon runner.

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