Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Roaming the Neighborhoods
Back in the fifties there was no such thing as a play date.
Often a group of us would ride our bikes up and down the maple-lined streets in search of adventure. One day we found a lost dog and returned him to his owner. Another time we discovered a fire in someone's yard and proceeded to stomp out the flames until the fire department came and chased us away. (We left knowing in our hearts that we were the real heroes of the day.)
We climbed the stone wall by the Methodist Church and dared each other to jump down. We rode our bikes like fury downhill taking our hands off the handlebars and waving them triumphantly over our heads. We rode with the wind in our hair since no one, in those days, wore a helmet.
We ran from bullies and laughed at the crazy old lady on the corner who claimed she talked to ghosts.
We made up plays and performed them, with or without an audience.
We built snow forts and tree forts. We jumped into huge pile of carefully-raked autumn leaves.
We played Jump Rope, Red Rover and Mother, May I.
When I look back on these exploits, I don't remember a single adult intervening except showing up briefly to scold us, warn us, or chase us away. If one of us acquired a lump on the head or a skinned knee, we usually took care of it ourselves, at least over the age of eight or nine. After all, we knew where the band-aids were kept and how to make an ice pack.
Many aspects go into what constitutes a happy childhood. Unscheduled, adult-free time is perhaps one of them. On the other hand, acquiring skills is important, too, and I often wished I had learned to do more things like ice skate or play the piano.