When I was a kid, there weren’t all that many organized activities one could partake of. Oh sure, there were things like the chess club and the science club and various intra-mural sports like basketball but most evenings I would find my calendar empty and doing what we kids did best and that’s what was called hanging out.
There was no science to it and it seemed to gather its own momentum that was further propelled by its own lack of structure. Each night after dinner our little tribe of five or six kids would gather on a street corner far enough away from our own houses so as not to be noticed by our parents. There we'd toss around a Spaldeen, one of those pink rubber balls that seemed to have a nose for the local sewer hole or a Frisbee and make up our own games along the way. Sometime, the games would involve both like trying to knock the Frisbee out of the air or using it as a stationary target and try to drill it with the ball from ever increasing distances. This usually went on until we got chased away by the people that actually lived there who either:
A) threatened to call the cops.
B) threatened to call our parents
C) do both
D) or advised us in no uncertain terms to “Go play in front of your own house!”
Depending on the level of their perceived threat, we’d eventually wander five or six blocks away and commandeer a park bench or two where we’d entertain ourselves by trying to see how many laps one could do while balancing themselves on the rail that encircled the sandbox. Good natured wagers were placed that, since we were all always broke, usually involved feats that would cause some type of embarrassment to the eventual loser. When we’d get tired of that, we’d shoot the shit about every topic imaginable. Usually that meant girls but depending on what was going on at school, at home or what new album had come out and great it was or how bad it sucked, the topic was pretty much wide open. We imagined those girls, some of whom would eventually become the love of our lives, were doing the same thing only someplace else.
Most of us had some kind of curfew so we were usually home by 9:00 or 10:00PM depending on the season and the weather. Most of us knew that if we broke the curfew, there’d be hell to pay. I think it made our friendship stronger…
Nowadays, my kid is about ready to reach her teens. A sample of her schedule for any given week looks something like this.
Soccer practice three times a week and once on weekends, each session lasting about an hour and a half.
Bassoon lessons every Wednesday, starting at 5:30PM and lasting for an hour
Acting lessons and various auditions for plays at the local children’s art theater.
Girl Scout meetings every Friday that run until six and various associated projects that go hand in hand with moving up to the next level.
People to People orientation meetings
Parent teacher conference this Thursday
Band practice at school
Getting ready to change schools next year – orientation meetings
Ice skating lessons, every Monday beginning today starting at 6:45PM and ending at 7:30PM – this after soccer practice which ends at 5:30.
In each instance, when whatever event is concluded, they all pile into their parents cars and go their separate ways. The friendships that should form somehow seem forgotten in the hurry to get from point A to point B and still have dinner served piping hot and on time.
I’m all for providing my kid with every opportunity she can lay her hands on. I’m just afraid that somewhere along the way, she, and many like her, won’t be able to share it with their friends because they won’t have the time.
She often asks me what it was like growing up in Brooklyn with my friends. I try to explain to her the circumstances I’ve described earlier but it seems to sound like a foreign concept.
It's been close to forty years ago but I can still remember their names and if I think hard enough, still see their faces.
I wonder if she'll be able to say the same.