This morning in that half conscious haze between sleep and wakefulness, my mind roamed to the town I lived in as a child of eight to eleven.
In the years that have ensued, the world has grown more dangerous, or at least more wary when it comes to allowing children to spend long hours exploring on their own. I used to hop on my balloon tire bike and cruise the side streets of my sleepy suburb of Los Angeles.
Nelson’s Drug Store, the German delicatessen and Bocks Toys were huddled together with other shops that remain nondescript in my memory. The rest of the community bathed in long hot days on the summer shoulder of the San Gabriel Mountains; modest stucco ranch houses lining the street . The occasional small orange grove sent sweet fragrance onto the breeze.
My family moved from the mid west, Dad in search of a better life and a job in the neophyte computer industry. Through the rest of his life he carried a micro chip in one of the the plastic sleeves of his wallet. “The computing power in this chip filled an entire room,” he’d muse.
That first summer in California, we rented the home of the family of a girl who would become my best friend. When our new house was through escrow and her family returned to theirs, Sue and I spent our free time together.
There was a ping pong table under the pergola of her backyard patio. It fanned my competitive nature. I became a fearsome ping ponger. Her Dad had a pet raccoon in an elaborate cage in the garage and a way cool convertible Porsche in the driveway. Sue’s twin teenaged sisters tolerated us, but did take us to see the filming of some television dance shows in the mysterious Hollywood. Her younger teen brother played the role of brooding young man by nearly never being seen outside his room.
I remember an earthquake shaking her house so violently that we could barely remain on our feet as we battled our way down the hall toward the front door. Welcome to California, indeed.
Most of all I remember feeling safe and lucky to be living in such a magical place and time. Days were filled with the outdoors, laying out floor plans of imaginary houses in the thick grass of the fields, skateboarding on no more than a length of two by four and roller skate wheels hammered to the corners, and listening to records on my parent’s turntable.
So many of today’s children have never known the joys of the imagination born of time and space and opportunity to explore. Play is no longer a thing under the control of a child’s imagination. Play is spoon feed through a screen or organized into a formal class or play date.
The childhood before personal computers, video games and instant everything was something special. I wonder what memories will fill the internal screens of tomorrow’s grown-ups as they look back.
Some things will never change. Having a mom and dad that provide security and a safe place to fall is treasure beyond compare.