OPINION | STEVE STRAESSLE: Memories are safe

Childhood memories live in a corner of one's soul. They reside there as the building blocks of emotion and experience, forming the base of how a person views the world and reacts to it.

I've written many times of Colony West, the neighborhood where I grew up. I've described its park, its sidewalks leading to other neighborhoods, its eclectic '70s and '80s feel as if it could be a setting in the "Stranger Things" series. I've mentioned its creeks and woods even.

But memories are kept safe within one's mind. The neighborhood and those who live in it faced danger and challenge due to Little Rock's tornado outbreak on March 31.

My little-kid memories have me watching the street from my window on Gunpowder Road. I learned to ride a bike in its driveway and managed to gain a few friends. The tornado hit some Gunpowder homes hard. My memories stayed safe.

We lived there for about six years until our family outgrew it and moved to the heaven of a cul-de-sac on Millbrook Court. There were kids in every house and a short walk to Colony West Park. At the neighborhood pool, I learned to swim and even competed on the swim team. Unfortunately, I could never beat a kid from Sturbridge, always ending up with second-place ribbons.

Colony West celebrated the Fourth of July with a parade and events ranging from watermelon-eating contests, cookouts, to a coin toss in the pool. One year, a kid accidentally jumped on my head and almost drowned me as I dove for nickels.

I carpooled to school with a bunch of Millbrook Court kids. We painted bases in the street so we could entertain massive kickball games. I broke my collarbone in a front-yard football game.

Fortunately, the street stayed intact during the tornado, missing it by about a half-mile. My memories stayed safe.

In junior high, we began lurking. That's what my friend's sister called it; we just called it hanging out. We'd walk to the park, walk to each other's houses, walk to the Kroger on Breckenridge. Kroger was a central focus to us for no reason other than it gave us something to do. Sometimes, we'd venture in Mad Cats, the bookstore, and read comics. We lurked. My memories are safe.

I had a paper route for several years in that neighborhood. My brothers and I climbed those hills every single day before sunrise delivering papers.

I learned the important lesson of resilience in Colony West. I learned the power of that word by climbing on my bike after falling off, by jumping into the deep end. I learned it by throwing those papers in dark mornings, by almost drowning in the coin toss, by not winning swim meets.

That's what a great neighborhood can teach a child, and a great neighborhood can model that quality itself by rising from the devastation of a tornado.

The Kroger is severely damaged. The streets I lurked on a disaster. Many childhood friends' homes almost destroyed.

But Colony West is resilient.

That's what my memories tell me.

Steve Straessle is the principal of Little Rock Catholic High School for Boys. You can reach him at sstraessle@lrchs.org. Find him on Twitter @steve_straessle. "Oh, Little Rock" appears every other Monday.

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