Jacquie’s Corner: When the Street Lights Come on, Head for Home

Jacqueline M. Ruffino-Platt

One of the instructions given to us as children, when the sun goes down and dusk was slowly approaching, we knew what to do. Head for home. Sometimes, I reminisce how much fun my little friends and I shared growing up in those times. Some evenings, my husband and I share some precious moments and talk about our backgrounds growing up. We were born and lived in different states; however, our neighborhood games were similar: Kick the Can; Kick the Stick; Red Light, Green Light; Simple Simon; Red Rover; and many more.

In the brutal, hot summers, we cooled off in the throes of the raging water coming from the fire hydrant on our block and loved every minute of prancing around with our friends. Our parents would stand by and observe all the children, hoping there were no falls, crying, or fighting among the little ones. Some folks couldn’t afford vacations away from the neighborhood streets during the hot, sweltering days of summer. They would gather up and drive to the lakes for picnics. Everyone brought food. Fried chicken, homemade salads, watermelon, lots of fruits, and cookies were always laid out on the picnic table. Occasionally, my godparents would treat my mom, my brothers, and me to Coney Island.

Over the years, we grow up with new inventions: TVs, cell phones, computers, and all the daily annoyances we have in today’s world. Of course, there is nothing wrong with how the world has progressed and how our needs are somewhat more expensive and the progression is sometimes required for all to have a good life.

Growing up without a dad wasn’t any different than some of my friends who had one parent. Mom worked two jobs every day and sometimes on weekends. My two brothers had paper routes and were delivery boys for grocery stores. Then one day everything seemed to change. The day before my eighth birthday, I wanted to skate down our street on the newly paved road. The street lights began to turn on in our neighborhood and showed some dim reflections. I wore my broken shoes with the soles tearing apart in the front and managed to clip them onto my skates with the skate key. I am certain you all remember the skate key. Off I went down the street with my mom’s disapproval. “I will be right back,” I said, skating down on the newly paved street with my little friends once more before going home. I saw a big truck coming towards me and hurried to get out of its way when I fell down and fractured my right arm, which caused a comminuted fracture. With the skates hanging off my feet, my friends helped me get home where my mom was so scared and very much concerned. I was taken to the hospital, and after several operations and two weeks later, I went home. My brother Russ surprised me with a party and my very favorite books, Cinderella being my best.

Keep your eyes open, and When the Street Lights Come on, Go Home.