Children really do live in our neighborhood, but you wouldn’t know it this summer. Every day is quiet. No one’s out riding bikes or playing kick the can or running a lemonade stand. I drove past the municipal pool yesterday and it wasn’t very busy, either.
Where did all the children go? It’s like the plot of a Mary Higgins-Clark novel. Have they all been turned into TV-watching, Wii-playing, Cheetoes-eating zombies?
I sit outside on the porch every evening and the only person I usually see is the mentally challenged man from the group home at the end of our street who walks up and down the sidewalk drinking Coke or Mountain Dew, hour after hour, stopping to clap and laugh sometimes when he sees…well…I’m not really sure. But whatever it is makes him darn happy.
Allow me to be an reminiscing old bitty for a moment.
When I was a kid, I spent most of the summer outside, mostly because I wanted to, but sometimes because Mom kicked me out of the house (especially if I used the “b” word – bored). “Go play!” she’d say pushing open the screen door and locking it behind me.
If no friends were around and I was stuck playing with my little brother, we’d hit the sandbox or the swing set and talk about what we wanted to be when we grew up. But usually our friends’ mothers had kicked them out of the house, too, and together we’d find all kinds of things to do.
We’d catch butterflies and bugs and put them in Mason jars with holes poked in the lids with branches and leaves stuffed inside. If enough kids were around, we’d organize a kickball or softball game. Sometimes we’d set up the badminton net or a croquet course. On really hot days, we’d fill big galvanized pots with water and “swim,” or hook up the sprinkler and run through it until we were shriveled like prunes.
No matter where I was in the neighborhood, I always knew when it was time to go home. No one’s dad had a whistle like my dads. Snappy sharp and piercing like a drill sergeant’s, Dad’s whistle all business. My call home was three whistles because I was the third child, and my brother was four whistles. It didn’t matter what we were doing, if we heard our whistle we were to come right home. No “Just five more minutes?” or “Do I have to?” but NOW, as in “Drop everything this very second. It’s time for dinner or bed.”
I don’t hear whistles like that in my neighborhood. I don’t even hear parents calling their children home. That is, when there are children outside. I assume they use cell phones now.
It’s a shame. I miss the laughter of kids playing around here. Sure, I’ve got Mr. Happy Clapper, but it’s not the same.
Have all neighborhoods become void of games and bikes and butterfly collectors? Do kids run through sprinklers anymore? If this is the case, Claire and I have to have a serious talk. I’m buying the kid a sprinkler and a galvanized pot, a croquet set and badminton birdies. We’re gonna have fun outside, gosh darn it, just like when I was a kid.