I’m Five by
(58 Stories)

Prompted By Special Birthdays

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No, this isn’t me, but I do have a sister Barbara.

Ok, short and sweet this time.

Why? 'Cause I got to cross our street, and any other street, by myself.

Special birthday?  A clear winner: my fifth birthday.  Why?  ‘Cause I got to cross our street, and any other street, by myself. Looking back I can scarcely believe it. Our street was Grand Boulevard and it was indeed grand.  Double the width of most streets in our city residential neighborhood.  But on the other side? Why, just a block beyond, down Matthews Street, was Page’s, a corner grocery store. About the size of modern convenience stores, or even a bit smaller, it had a remarkable assortment of foodstuffs. Mom would send me there for her (usually calling ahead to Red, Mr. Page).  We had an account there so no cash changed hands.  And usually a trip there meant a treat for me.  Of my choosing.

So my fifth birthday opened my door to the wide world.

Profile photo of Tom Steenburg Tom Steenburg
Retired attorney and investment management executive. I believe in life, liberty with accountability and the relentless pursuit of whimsy.

Characterizations: been there, funny, well written


  1. Marian says:

    Aw, this is so sweet, Tom. And even though treats were sought, the freedom of crossing the street into the wider world was priceless.

  2. Dave Ventre says:

    I remember the days of small local grocers and putting things “on the book” as well.

  3. Fun to think about 5-year old Tom’s delight crossing that big wide street by himself.

    As kids we did see our neighbor as our safe haven, and venturing beyond it was indeed like stepping into the frightening but beckoning world!

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Isn’t it amazing how times have changed. When I was 5 or 6, I walked my cousin, who was 9 months younger, to school in Detroit, several blocks from our home. We also got to stop at the candy store across from the school on our way home. In contrast, my grandkids had to be picked up from grammar school, and the teacher wouldn’t dismiss them until someone on the list showed up.

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    First, I loved Barbra singing that song (now a great ear worm – thank you). But, as others have noted, a lovely sweet story about the world opening up to by crossing your “Grand” street by yourself and even venturing to the market where you could buy things on account…at the tender age of 5! Which points out how much the world has changed. No sane mother would let her 5 year old out of sight unsupervised now.

    • Quite so. And, to be sure, my trips at that tender age were only occasional. But ours was a community of truly neighborhood schools and in grade school we all went home for lunch. Working moms? What’s that? Anyway the New York Times was not available for home delivery in our community and Mr. Page held a copy for me to pick up on my way home for lunch every day. At which time I also picked up my confectionary reward. With attendant results. Of course, that didn’t make me overweight, just “husky”.

  6. John Shutkin says:

    Adorable, Tom. And congratulations. Unlike my expected sixth birthday present (no more croup), yours actually came true. Otherwise you might not have been able to cross Mass Ave. so we could have lunch together at our reunion last week.

  7. Suzy says:

    Lovely story, Tom, and, as others have said, truly a picture of days gone by. And the photo of your sister Barbara is adorable. (I knew it as a Danny Kaye song, so didn’t get the Barbra reference until I read Betsy’s comment.)

  8. A sweet vignetts of the true meaning of turning five. And I’m glad there were sweet treats attendant to your newfound responsibilities and freedom.

  9. Susan Bennet says:

    Is there anything so tender as a mother’s love for her little boy? I expect that, seen or unseen, your mum kept tabs on your brave journeys across the Grand. No wonder you grew up to be a daring (Iceland) man. Such a sweet memory for you. Thanks for sharing with us.

  10. Khati Hendry says:

    Being allowed to cross the street is/was a big deal!!! I tried to run away from home when I was about four, but had to return because I “couldn’t cross Millbrook”. Thanks for the smile.

  11. Crossing the street to find a whole new world is also a wonderful metaphor for crossing a divide at any age, 21, 39, 60, 75. New adventures await at every turning Thank you for sharing that idea.

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