We started a poetry unit today in grade 5. We read a beautiful little poem called, “Harlem” written by Walter Dean Myers. It’s an inspiring collection of sights, sounds, and rhythms of 1960’s Harlem. We used this poem as inspiration for our own thoughts on our neighborhoods. What I thought would be a good springboard for inspired poetry writing turned out to be quite a difficult task with these little people: they don’t know their neighborhoods.
These kids live in glamorous apartment buildings that they leave only when their drivers are prepared to take them to other people’s glamorous apartments, or to the airport to catch a plane which will take them to five-star hotels in glamorous parts of the world. I was stunned. These kids don’t play pick-up games of cricket or football or baseball or tag with neighborhood kids. They don’t leave a pile of bikes on the front lawn of their best friend’s house. They don’t ride their skateboards to the park and play for hours until the sun sets. They don’t walk around the neighborhood, round and round, until the wee hours of the morning discussing how to construct the perfect boat for the creek race the next afternoon. They don’t have late-night games of tag and long talks in truck beds. Their entire sense of neighborhood is a web of high-end hotels, five-star restaurants, and business class travel.
I realize now how ignorant I am about the lives these little people live. I can’t help but be sad for them, for missing out on my neighborhood. What will they remember about where they grew up? Will they fondly cherish each warm summer night with best friends and Tarantula and basketball and brownies? Will they ever know the warmth and love of best friends for life? Can they know the comfort and safety of three sets of neighborhood parents?
I have no idea what to expect when they publish on Friday. I’m anxious to read about their worlds. From an outsiders’ perspective, having the world as your neighborhood seems sensational and isolating at the same time. I wonder what I will learn from these little poets. How will their neighborhoods inspire me?
In the meantime, here are some photos from my neighborhood here in Bandra. I live in an area that is a protected historical neighborhood…the paintings on the walls are beautiful. If only all graffiti was this beautiful.