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Noisy boys move, leave lonely silence

From the time he started walking until this spring, just stepping out the front door and exploring the neighborhood would suffice for my boy and me.

Sometimes we could blow a good half hour or more just exploring - or trespassing, depending on how you viewed it - the yards just around our house.

No one seemed to mind the two of us just wandering, looking at flowers and shrubs and yard decor. I think my neighbors knew a boy had to be occupied, something I always appreciated.

Our street has been home to three families with young boys - six of them, ranging from maybe 8 or 9 to about 12.

The yard next door was the site of various sporting contests, usually football, but wiffleballs, basketballs and soccer balls were frequently left scattered about the grass.

And by "grass," I meant the turf worn down from constant play and scuffling. It had a wonderful, ground-in quality that said "children live here."

Any time of year, warm afternoons and evenings could be filled with the sound of play calling and hoots of triumph or wails of despair.

My wife, Kris, and I worried as our son's first summer neared that the racket would keep him awake from his early bedtimes.

It was never a problem, even into his second year - and despite a growing interest in the boys' doings.

Kris and I would watch our toddling toddler peeping at the gang from our front window, curious about the running and jumping and chasing going on.

I know he longed to run around with them.

Of course, I knew by the time he was old enough to keep up, they would be long past the age when they would want to play with him, but it still made for a bittersweet desire for me to harbor for him.

The boys were nice enough, though, when the little guy and I went out for a walk, to offer him a pint-sized soccer ball to play with. (With their mother's prompting, I think, but it was still sweet.)

He has it to this day; he calls it his "socca boll."

I looked forward to more years with a lively, rough-and-tumble neighborhood with my son idolizing and hopefully emulating the active youngsters on our street.

Well, as they always do, things changed.

The boys across the street moved away and their parents put the house up for sale, and then last week the house next door put up a "For Sale" sign, too.

With all the movement this summer, there wasn't any ball playing. And the worn down grass is now thick with growth.

I think back to the years when I was a boy in Beckley, when our street was home to nine families with at least two children each.

Summer evenings were raucous with wiffleball and tag and kick the can. And hordes of us must have made some dreadful noise with our Big Wheels tearing down the hill.

The return to quiet was a gradual thing, as we became teenagers just roaming the night, then later driving off to points unknown.

Now, with homes vacated and autumn in the air, my neighborhood here is going to be a lot quieter. And unless a pair of young families moves in, it's going to stay that way for at least a little while.

Contact writer Philip Maramba at or 304-348-1248.



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