Yesterday, Vella Meadows’ children, Richard, Casey, Donna, Carol and Joanne, gave a wonderful party to celebrate Vella’s 97th birthday. There were family, relatives, and old friends there. And among the old friends were the former residents/neighbors of West Parkway.

For me, that was priceless. Everyone has long since moved away from the street, but yesterday those of us who were at the party went down through Memory Lane, through the yesterdays of our lives. We laughed a lot; a couple of us cried a little; but oh! We had so much fun.

First of all, eight different adults came to me, one at a time, and just stood in front of me, smiling, questions in their eyes: “Do you recognize me?” It was a real challenge because I hadn’t seen them since they were children (except for one). And I passed the challenge in all but two cases.

We ended up all sitting at the same table, except for the Meadows. They stayed with us a lot, but had to circulate and play hosts, which they did expertly. But at one point, Casey confessed that when he delivered papers as a kid and his bike had a flat tire or something, he’d grab one of my kids’ bikes (which he said were always lying around the yard. Wait till I call them on that one!), finish delivering his papers, and leave the bike back where he’d found it.

Joanne took me aside and tearfully apologized for not being at Mary Kay’s funeral. She said, “I’m so sorry, Mrs. Baier. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t. I tried writing notes to you and I was such a mess, I couldn’t do that, either.” I hugged her and said it was okay. Because it is okay. We all grieve in different ways and that’s just the way it is.

Later, Patty Noonan and Joanne and I laughed about the things we did together. We’d have our tea parties. I’d bring my bone china cups and saucers down from the cupboard and made tea that we all hated, but we sat there and pretended we were high society. I told them how I really laughed at some of our conversations then. They were so cute.

Another time, they let me ride someone’s bike with them. I told them I could only turn right, and the devils turned left off Bennington Drive, leaving me going straight ahead and laughing hysterically all by myself.

Patty said she remembers a time when one of her paper customers hadn’t paid her for quite a while. (People didn’t realize—or didn’t care—that the paper carriers had to pay for the papers whether they got paid by their customers or not.) She said that I went with her to that home and marched right up to the front door and explained the situation to that customer. I guess I’ve always been a soldier for the little guy.

They said—proudly—that Mary Kay, Patty and Joanne were the first girl paper carriers in our area. (Hmmm. Apparently, I was into feminist training even back then.)

What was the greatest treasure of all that those girls gave me—and they never knew it—was that they let me play little girl with them. Granted, they were bored stiff by the time they came to me, saying they couldn’t think of anything to do. But those tea parties and that bike ride (I only did it once!) and our many conversations are still, and will be forever, in my heart.

As we wound down the party, the photos, and the story-telling, someone said, “You know, we really had a nice neighborhood. Everyone played together, was nice to everyone else; neighbors helped each other. It was really like one big family.”  And the circle of former neighbors all agreed.


First row, from left: Sue Middleton, me

Second row, from left:  Carol Meadows, Mary and Patty Noonan, Donna Meadows, Joanne Meadows. And the big guy in back is Casey Meadows (yes, he’s standing on something.)