When my girls were growing up in Mentor, there was a vacant lot at the corner of our street. We lived in a housing development of quarter acre lots, plenty of homes and plenty of children of all ages, from those just being born up to children old enough to drive cars. It was a good environment from finding baby sitters right down to finding playmates.
One aspect of the neighborhood caused me dismay; the condition of the lot on the corner. The developer had sold and built on every lot except the one on the busy corner. That lot accumulated the debris from thoughtless drivers for whom it was the convenient place to send soft drink containers, fast food bags, and everything else they didn’t care to throw away at home. I’d turn onto my street at night and think, “This is my neighborhood; how awful it looks.”
Watching the neighborhood group at play in the street one Saturday, inspiration struck. I rounded them up and said I would pay them for bringing home the trash and putting it in my trash can. It took them several weekends and a lot of wagon loads to make the first clear out. After that maybe once a month I’d have young hands knocking on the door telling me there was trash on the corner (to turn into cash in their pockets!). Their finest score was a six pack of a decent brand of beer. I could only imagine the tale behind that.
My street now is thinly populated, fewer than a dozen houses. When we moved here there were half a dozen children to catch the school bus; they grew up, and after a shortage we now we have a few more children to ride the bus. The paved street is half a mile long, with another half mile of private lane with homes. Quite the hike for little legs, but the school bus doesn’t go down our road because there is no place to turn at the end. When we first moved here one young mother from up the lane would walk up the road to meet her children getting off the bus. With her was a pre-schooler with a plastic grocery bag, into which she put litter as they went. “Shopping for trash,” Kay explained to me one day when I went out to chat.
This past summer, in order to be on last November's ballot, I was out, door to door, collecting elector signatures. That’s how you get on the ballot in Ohio. Down the end of our road, up the lane, Kay called to her daughter, home from college, to come sign my petition. The little girl who used to shop for trash is studying environmental science.
Watching my long and lanky grandson run up his street to empty the recycling into the neighborhood recycle bin just reminded me of my neighborhood crew, off to shop for cash with the red wagon, and Kay’s little girl who kept my street so tidy, shopping for trash.