When I was a kid attending elementary school, I walked about five blocks to school. It was close enough that I could actually come home for lunch, eat a bowl of soup and a sandwich and still make it back in time for the afternoon bell.
On those rare days when I carried a sack lunch, my mother would always give me a dime to buy some fruit and a dessert. Although I usually stopped at the Ideal Grocery, just two blocks from school, I had plenty of options. There were at least a half-dozen mom-and-pop stores within a half mile of our house.
Typical of that 1950s era, the store itself would usually be just a big room with a weathered wooden or linoleum floor, a few shelves bearing canned goods, a counter with a second- (or third-) hand cash register on it and rows of candy behind it. The owners usually lived in the same building.
My friends and I spent lots of time in those stores, guzzling soda during breaks from our all-day pickup baseball games, tearing open the latest series of baseball cards or nibbling on 3¢ Klein bars.
Growing up, that six-block radius was pretty much my everyday world. Not only did we know our neighbors, I'll bet we knew every neighbor within two blocks in every direction.
We knew whose yard it was safe to pluck a peach from. We knew who wouldn't give us back our ball if it went in their yard. We knew about the crazy lady without kids who would snatch you up if you ventured too near her door. Well, we thought we knew.
They knew us, too. I was frequently surprised by their comments or questions. How did she know that? Obviously, there was an adult network in place that I didn't understand.
But the neighborhood was important to me, providing support and comfort in so many ways. As you construct your own personal history don't forget where you grew up. Revisit your time there mentally and incorporate your memories into your project.
Think, too, about your present situation. Do you know your neighbors? Are you OK with that?
Here are a couple of posts by others on neighborhoods. This post from Solano County in Northern California is about the nationwide trend to fashion new neighborhoods in the image of the old neighborhoods of my youth. This post takes on the philosophical question of "What is home?" and has the added bonus of some information about southern cooking. Warning: Your mouth may be watering after visiting this site.