During those seven years we spent growing up with Goofy Steve as our across the street neighbor, life was anything but boring. Goof was always doing something … well, goofy. And one Saturday morning he did the goofiest thing I’d ever seen.
What he did was something that, not only do I still remember over fifty-five years later, but I’ve also strived to accomplish every day since. Welcome, Dear Reader, to living life backwards — The Flamingo Street way.
My three brothers, The Sister, and me ran outside right after breakfast to enjoy our newly found freedom. It was the first day of Spring Break and we didn’t want to miss a second of it.
After jumping on our bikes, we raced to the end of our driveway, turned up Flamingo, and then one after another slammed on our brakes. Goof smiled and waved as he walked past us up and over the hill before disappearing down the other side.
We thought this was strange because the only person who lived down in the cul-de-sac was Old Mrs. Crabtree, our third-grade teacher at Mt. Olive Elementary School. She was on Spring Break also and we knew she didn’t want to see any kids because she said the last day of school, “Tomorrow, I’m on Spring Break and I’m not going to see any kids.”
Why Goof was walking to see Mrs. Crabtree, none of us ever found out. She must not have been home because before we could decide to ride after him he appeared just over the hill walking backwards down to where we all were. Giggling and laughing he walked past us and said, “Come on!” He was having so much fun we all got off our bikes and joined him.
We walked past Betsy McGriffen, aka Blabber Mouth Betsy’s house and she joined us. Then we went past Ski’s, and Bubba Hank’s houses they joined us also. When we reached Down the Street Bully Brad’s house he came out, took one look at all of us walking backwards, told us we all were crazy and then went back inside.
We turned around and walked backwards back up Flamingo. After a couple more trips up and down the street, we all made it back to Goof’s house for a lunch of hot dogs, baked beans, chips and Coke.
His mom gave us all some of her famous peach cobbler and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top for dessert.
Lunch over, Goof walked us outside … of course still walking backwards. I was the one who finally asked him the question all of us wanted to know the answer to, “Why are you walking backwards?” His answer I’ve never forgotten.
“If you don’t know where you’ve come from … how can you know where you’re going?”
I came from 110 Flamingo Street — spent seven magical years growing up there with my three brothers, The Sister, and all those neighborhood kids with funny nicknames.
And I’ve spent my entire life walking backwards trying to reach that magical time in my life once again. Now, with the help of our granddaughters and their boundless childhood imaginations, I’ve been able to make it partially back.
Next week, I’ll turn sixty-four, not so young anymore. Next month our granddaughters will turn eight and nine – still so forever young. The more time spent with them, the younger I feel. They are my Fountain of Youth, my backwards way back.
And each week, you can join us right here for stories from a more simpler time. A time when there were no bills that needed to be paid, and the stresses of everyday life are things of a distant future, replaced by endless days of just plain childish fun growing up back on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]