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March 20, 2023

Lasting impressions

I feel fortunate to have the upbringing I had. Growing up in Washington D.C. with a bunch of wonderful kids in my neighborhood – kids from Greek and Jewish families, Catholics, Russians, Italians, Yugoslavians — how lucky was I to have been thrown into such a rich mix at such a young age?

At Shepherd Elementary School in D.C., where I attended grades two through six, most the kids there were black. At Paul Junior High School, where I attended grades seven and eight, whites were about five percent. I still feel fortunate that so many of my friends were Duane, Ellis, Lucas, Sheila and Ella. These were folks that, as a kid, I could have cared less what the hell their skin color was — they were not only good friends, but caring and sensitive friends that left lasting and fond impressions on me and I hope I did the same for them.

As I read the daily papers and see the TV news now-a-days, with all the worldly problems, I take great comfort in having had the positive growing up period I had without the threat of having my limbs blown off in some awful terrorist attack or a nut plowing into a crowd with a truck in the crosswalk.

I still recall with enormous glee playing hide and seek or kickball on those warm D.C. summer evenings with the flurry of lightening bugs flying around in the evening sky and that crowd of kids on Hemlock Street like the Howards, the Freses, the Cohens, the Brocks and the Brunos. I always felt privileged to be able to hang out and play with the older kids as well, like Nola, and Jack Howard, who were from a family of 12.

 I still recall I had a deep crush on Francis Howard, Jack and Nola’s younger sister, who was my age. We were still both in grade school. But she certainly lit my candle, with her pretty looks and friendly ways. I know she often looked at me with curiosity, and suspicion, like “who is this nut that thinks he likes me?” But we were just kids and these are the things that go on, I hope.

When I hear kids playing now in my neighborhood I so deeply relish the sound of their bouncing ball, laughter and their happy chatter.

I loved being a kid. And my wonderful neighborhood, with its rich mix of ethnicity only added to how joyful it was. It saddens me now to realize that many families don’t let their children outdoors much anymore. They say there are too many risks, with kidnappings, shootings and such. But right across my street I see my neighbors always have their girls outdoors riding their bikes, walking their dog, chatting with the folks in the area, including us. Nina loves to come over and exchange words. It’s a youthful curiosity that’s so charming to me. My wife and I see these kids hopping on their bikes on weekday mornings heading off to school. It’s the color of the neighborhood, the flavor of life going by. I like when I hear kids singing out loud as they pass by on their way to school. I love the sound of their scooters rolling past, their skateboards and bicycles sailing by.

I’ll admit I’ve travelled a lot — like to more than 30 countries and to places like Mexico about 40 times. My wife Sarah and I have travelled to about 15 U.S. states as well — New York, New Orleans, New Mexico, and New Hampshire for starters. Yet still, out of all these amazing and dazzling places, to this day, one of my favorite things is to settle into our living room sofa, spread out the morning newspaper, sip my coffee and watch the day start up out our front window — the simple things. I don’t mean to write off the incredible places we’ve been to — Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, China, Taiwan, Italy, Israel, Jordan, Greece, Egypt, France, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Canada, Finland, The Netherlands, Russia … the list goes on. But I have come, more and more, to truly relish this basic comfort of enjoying my own home with the company of my wife and the familiarity of our surroundings.

I don’t know where I’m going with this article, other than to address the appreciation I have for the fortunate upbringing I had, which leads me to appreciate our youth of today as they try to figure out how to get through and live a happy life. It’s not always easy, but who said it would be. But for goodness sakes do I so relish the bright moments, the warm spots, and my friends.
Tarmo Hannula can be reached at [email protected] or 761-7330.


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