– Attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson
Salad days. It could very well mean the diet that I need to be on—of course, I blame my desk job for the extra pounds. But that’s not the origin of the expression that came to me as I glanced up at the picture of Sr. Cyrille Gill, OP, above my desk. Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, regretting her Kardashian behavior with Julius Caesar, coined the phrase in 1606: “My salad days, when I was green in judgment and cold in blood.” In today’s slang it would have been that time in your life when you were “livin’ large.” With the passing of my first real downstairs neighbor last month, “Uncle” Phil LaSpisa, I found myself deep inside the salad bowl, reminiscing about the days when I only had to pay the ice cream truck driver not federal taxes; when we would sit on the front porch in the rain and not worry about our cable or internet going out; when Lake Lawn Lodge seemed like half-way around the world; when my mom borrowed a car to take us all to a Cubs game and we sat by the third base wall and watched Ron Santo play; when we caught lightning bugs and had a curfew; and when we didn’t need a chaperone or a car to trick-or-treat.
Now I live among neighbors who blast music without regard for the people who work or who are sick; who toss bottles, cups and bags with the same arrogance; who look at me as if I’m the one who let my kids play wildly outside until midnight; who have, in a few short years, managed to desecrate homes and yards that were pristine for generations. Without caring for the property or the people around them, how can I expect them to grasp the significance of some of the stories in this issue? How many children and adults in the western suburbs will attend the upcoming Maywood Bataan Day service that commemorates Company “B” of the 192nd Tank Battalion and its march of misery, malaria, starvation, dysentery and death in the Philippines in World War II? How many actually know where Hines, Illinois is located and the desperate struggle to keep the Fisher House on the Hines VA campus open to military personnel and their families in crisis? How many will have the extra ten dollars to donate to Gramps Fest to honor the memory of an innocent family man whose life was snuffed out by a drugged-up derelict who, with numerous previous convictions, should have never been allowed to drive in the first place? How many families will flock to the Franklin Park American Legion pancake breakfast or care to support an organization comprised of men and women who fought for our freedom to eat pancakes in the first place. How many kids will actually sign up for the Oak Park Library’s first Neighborhood Giving Project at West Suburban PADS and see how it feels to be homeless? Where’s the fun in that?
Sometimes, like now, I wonder if Neighbors magazine is just a dinosaur, with a message that just falls upon a lot of deaf ears. And then, I try to remember my salad days and the people who, like Emerson and Uncle Phil, had a simpler philosophy. “Be silly. Be kind. Be honest.” At the start of a new school year, it’s sound advice for both adults and children—and the silliness is the easiest, except, of course, when it can be your ticket straight to the principal’s office.