Two Squares: A Family Story

I’ll be the first to admit that adjusting to apartment life hasn’t been easy. No space. No privacy. No place to plant a flower or smoke a slab of ribs. But after almost four years in the city, all the minor annoyances seem worth it when I think about all the good people we’ve gotten to know in our crumbling building on the corner of Granville and Wayne.

The blacksmith. The clothing designer. The stained-glass artist. The photographer. The accountant. The roadie. The student. The family with 3 kids. Yes, even in the midst of so many interesting adults, it’s the family that’s taken on heroic stature in my mind. Having grown up with a big backyard, a swing set, a sandbox, a tree house and plethora of pets, I can’t imagine what big city parents do when their kids are driving them nuts. Or what the kids do when they want to build a fort, destroy an anthill or just run free—without any fear of being reprimanded. Yet, the  family in our building always seems to find a way to keep everything balanced.

I ran into them the other day while they were out playing in the puddles left behind by eight inches of melted snow. As the kids bounced down the street from one muddy pool of water to another, I made small talk with mom. Our conversation unfolded as the kids kept their energetic pace until mom’s instinct kicked in and everything suddenly came to an abrupt halt.

“TWO SQUARES!” she yelled to the little ones half a block ahead.

“What’s that all about?” I asked.

“They can run all they want—as long as they stop 2 sidewalk squares away from every intersection.”

Standing there, it occurred to me—again—that we humans are built to adapt to our environment. Like a three-legged dog or a Tulip that grows toward to sun, we’re made to make the best of things and survive. And while I’ve heard Darwin developed most of his theories based on things he saw on the Galapagos Islands, it seems ‘survival of the fittest’ can be observed on most street corners every single day.

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