In our neighborhood, just around the corner from our house. Its blacktop is grey and faded and cracked, the result of close to thirty years of hot summers, cold winters, and wet springs. No doubt it has seen better days, and will soon need to be replaced or refinished, whatever it is they do to blacktop these days.
It has served its purpose well. Stoically bearing the weight of cars and trucks, the day to day traffic of a neighborhood, the deliveries and service vehicles, the daily commuters. Its passive grey face has seen quite a bit over the years. How many children learned to ride a bike on its surface, taking those first tentative and wobbly yards, and somehow magically discovering the trick of balancing those wheels? All those skinned knees and bruised elbows and tears of frustration! Soon the Cul-de-Sac could not hold them, as they whisked confidently around the neighborhood.
Countless dogs have trotted across its surface, occasionally stopping to take note of some interesting smell that found its way onto the blacktop. For the most part it was merely a conduit for them, a means to an end as they journeyed towards some other place, the yard across the street, the high school down the hill, for a walk and to see what was going on out in the great world.
In the winter storms (when they came) its duty was to serve as a snow repository. The plows would inevitably pile the snow in the Cul-de-Sac’s wide, circular space. Those snow piles quickly became the site of snow forts and mini sled paths, children clambering to the top and sliding down, again and again and again. Some years the snow was piled so high the mounds would last into the early spring until finally the warmer sun, glimmering from the white surface, caused water to trickle downwards, forming puddles, rivulets, tributaries, an entire water system of melting snow and fading winter.
On nice days we gathered in the front yards and spoke about the day’s events, caught up on sports scores, made plans, chatted about our children, commented on how perplexing the world was. The Cul-de-Sac, with its symbolic circular shape joined us together, forming a kind of connective tissue, a common space that belonged to one and all. Part of the fabric of the neighborhood, those of us who have lived there for decades know each crack and crevice, each dip and bump.
One day soon I suppose the cracks and bumps will be gone, replaced by a smooth and shiny blackness. But new cracks will slowly begin to form. It is the way of things. New seasons will come and go, new piles of snow will grow in the winter and melt in the spring. There will be more skinned knees, more bikes that are taken for that very first spin. New neighbors will move into the houses, carefully tending their green lawns and trimming their bushes.
The cul-de-sac will be there for them, as it was (and is) for us.