Growing up in Morris County gave me the opportunity to live in the “country” as some would call it. A nice, historic, up and coming little town called Pequannock, a lot like New Milford.
The kids in my hometown played together and it didn’t matter how old you were. We hung out at each other’s houses and swam in each other’s pools. Our group of friends ranged from 10 – 15 year old girls and boys. Okay, throw a little sister or baby brother into the mix, we were very responsible for our age.
Not like our coddled children today.
We all met up after lunch in front of my house on Roosevelt Street and took off into the woods for the afternoon with our imaginations in tow and not a care in the world.
“Come home when the street lights go on,” my mother called after us.
It wasn’t important where we went, we were together and we were definitely going to have fun. We picked flowers in nearby fields, danced and sang in the middle of the streets. We walked the train tracks all the way down to the pipe line just to jump over the creek. Once, Henry lost his shoes. Yep, sometimes we fell in and ruined our sneakers in the black muck. Sometimes the gross muck consumed our sneakers and we had to go home in our socks or worse yet in our bare feet, knowing full well the consequences.
Our group would gather shovels and wheelbarrows from our garages, go into the woods near our homes, and clear out areas to play in. We pulled out saplings, weeds, and tall grasses. We dug huge holes in the ground just to see how big and deep we can make them. We made some serious holes in the earth in our day. I think we took it seriously when our parents said, “Go dig to China.”
We would jump into the holes and try to figure out how to get out without the soil coming back on us. We had contests. Who could jump across the hole without falling in? It was always a close call between my brother Sam, and Kenny. They were the biggest and the oldest. We made up silly games, caught frogs and raced them around the hole. We didn’t mean to hurt you little guys, really.
Another time we took the dirt shovel by shovel and wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow and created a mountain right at the end of a path. It took us most of the day to complete it but when we did, we rode our bikes up and down and all around it. You know someone had to ruin their clothes, rip their pants and bleed in some way when they flew off it. But it was one awesome “pop a wheelie”. We played all day on our kid made mound. “Make-Out Mountain,” that’s what the teenagers called it.
Makes me laugh today.
Kids! Creative and adventurous children, playing outside.
That mountain is still there today. It’s covered with overgrown grasses and weeds and it’s not as big as I remember. Now, it’s just a little “blip” at the end of the road.
Today our children grow up without the simple pleasures of exploring. We, as parents are afraid to the let the kids play in the front yard. Fear the stranger. Wasn’t that what we were told?
“Stay away from strangers! Watch out for the Boogey Man.”
So a new generation was born.
Afraid to let our 10 year old turn the corner and walk to a nearby friends’ house. Afraid to leave our kids on the front lawn while mowing the grass in the backyard. So, we gave our children things, lots of things, things to occupy their time.
Our kids today are consumed with TV, computers and video games. We send our children off into the world armed with game consoles, desk top computers, laptop computers, smart phones, cell phones, I-Pads, I-Phones, etc.
Honestly, how many things can they do at one time?
They “need” them, so I am told.
I used to have trouble talking, chewing gum and walking at the same time for fear of biting my lip, cheek or tongue. But now we walk, talk, text, drive, listen to music with those dreadful ear buds shoved into our ear canals and head out into the street with our heads bowed down typing into the small keypad on our cell phones, completely oblivious to the cars that swerve so not to hit us because we are walking across the street.
When was the last time your child made a house out of a refrigerator box? How about helped you weed the garden? Drew a fabulous self portrait? Swept the patio or porch? Picked up the dog poop in the back yard? Played in the rain puddles? Made instruments out of toilet paper cylinders? Read a book? Played cards? Did something for someone? Helped you cook a fun meal?
Do we really need the satisfaction of immediate contact with someone? Do we really need to announce to complete strangers what our status is on social media internet outlets?
Now you can call, text, type, skype, facetime, youtube, and God knows what else for your immediate satisfaction to converse with someone or download something.
Can’t we go back to a time when we still wrote checks, did our banking in person and kept our finances on paper and done in long hand? I liked leaving messages for someone to return my phone call. In fact, I liked going next door to chat with the neighbors. Sometimes I even asked for a cup of sugar or two eggs if I was in a bind.
Turn off your TV, computers and video games, smart phones, cell phones, I-Pads, I-Phones, etc. and take some time to smell the roses, watch your garden grow or listen to the birds sing.
Don’t let your day go by without finding some peace and quiet even if it is for 15 minutes. Perhaps, that’s just enough time.
If I close my eyes I can still hear our names being called out in the distance by our mother and the occasional whistle produced by my father.
You know what that meant? You were LATE and we had to run all the way home from wherever we were or else.
Ah the good ole days…for better or for worse? I say it is a balancing act.
Until next time, TTYL