Growing up in Mantua #8

Mantua was a neighborhood that was in a sweet spot in Northern Virginia. It was perfectly situated between four through roads: Picket Road to the West, Arlington Boulevard to the North, Prosperity Avenue to the East, and Little River Turnpike to the South.

The North and South roads are major roadways that commuters use each day to get into and out of Washington, DC every day. The neighborhood is situated just outside the national beltway and was, and still is, highly desired by anyone working in DC.

The roads help enclose the neighborhood in such a way that there was no encroachment from cut-through commuters and allowed the residents easy access to these key roads for getting to work. As a result Mantua became a highly desired neighborhood for federal workers of many types. To this day I don’t know all the levels of government were represented in my neighborhood. I just know that some were quite high up. As kids we never really cared what other people’s parents did for work.

The geography of this neighborhood made Mantua perfect for a kid growing up because we could walk, run, or bike nearly everywhere and we could stay in the neighborhood. And we did. While some houses had fences, they were merely obstacles to be climbed.

When I walked to my best friend Sharyn’s house I rarely walked the four blocks AROUND to her house. I simply walked across the street through the Wagner’s back yard into the Malcom’s back yard then diagonally across the street to Rocky Mount Road and down the hill to her house.

I walked to and from school every day in elementary school. The school was just under one mile from my front door. One of my schoolmate’s house was literally right next door. (I do mean literally — you walked out the side door of the school and walked less than 200 feet and there was her house.)

People often talk about the neighborhood that kids played until the streetlights came on. Mantua was one of those neighborhoods. We weren’t perfect. We weren’t Stepford kids and we definitely did stupid things with the freedoms we had, which I will get to soon. But Mantua was a neighborhood that allowed us to be kids so we could make mistakes. This allowed us to get hurt and make mistakes so we could grow and learn.

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