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When Being Outside Was All We Had

Walking, playing and talking together...OUTSIDE...may not be gone forever. Kids are still kids and they yearn for close friendships!

I saw a little clip this morning on TV.  A young man was nervously twirling the telephone cord between the fingers of his right hand. The receiver was in his left hand, near his mouth.  Little beads of sweat had formed on his forehead. "I thought maybe if you were not busy on Saturday, well, maybe, you might like to go with me to the dance." 

The camera switches to the young girl on the other end. Standing by the staircase of her foyer, she answers happily. "That sounds like fun. I have to ask my parents if they have anything planned; if not, I would love to go to the dance with you!"  1960, it was a very good year.

Growing up in Brooklyn was a fun time for my friends and for me, especially in the summer.  We would walk past the Italian-American Social Club, on our way to the park. We didn't know what was inside the small storefront, but there were a few small, round tables, (bistro style) with chairs at each. The chairs were never empty. Sitting, talking and having a tall, cool glass of 'lemonatha', (homemade lemonade) were the members of the club.

Each sporting slick dark hair and a mustache. Their short sleeved, white shirts were pressed and starched. Some wore suspenders. Coming from a different culture, no one wore shorts back then...even in the heat of July. Shorts were for the kids. Strolling past, we would hear them talking about life; their kids, their jobs and President Kennedy.  It was always sunny on that street.

Returning home, after two hours at the park, where would swing on swings, and monkey around on the monkey bars, we took a different route. We would pass the kids playing stoop ball on cement steps in front of their homes. Seeing kids hiding behind street side bushes, or behind large Oaks, waiting to be 'found'...ready to race back to 'home base'.. always made us smile.  But the best part about walking home, for us, was walking past the big white house at the corner of Cortelyou Road.

Unlike our brownstones, this house had a porch in front, with 4 very wide wooden steps. I'm guessing that the mom was responsible for the boufant shaped hanging basket, which was always filled with seasonal flowering plants. There were 6 or 7 teenagers that were always sitting outside.  I don't know how many of them, belonged to the family, who lived in that white house. From what I saw, I know all the teens were welcomed there. They would be talking, laughing or listening to the radio. Every once in a while, I would see a girl sitting holding hands with a guy. Walking past the house on Cortelyou Road, made me happy.

Do kids even walk to parks, anymore? We were 9 or 10-years-old when we did. Do 9 or 10-year-olds swing on swings and monkey around on monkey bars? Our parents did not come with us. We had no cell phones. We did keep a dime in our sock, incase we needed to call home. We never needed to call home. If mom said, "Be home in an hour", we would be home in an hour. We walked on sidewalks and never got a 'lift'. If we could not walk there, then it was obviously too far for us to even BE THERE. Along the way, we saw and heard the sights and sounds of our neighborhood.

We loved being outdoors and we loved being with our friends..laughing. We played Parchese under the awning on rainy days; hopscotch when we had chalk. We had hula hoop contests and the winner got...applauded! My favorite activity was roller skating. I wore my dad's belt around a pillow, around my butt! No helmets, no knee, no elbow pads while riding bikes around the corner. We would take turns riding on Cousin Mike's red, two wheeler. 

This blog was going to be about texting and how it has taken away from developing social skills in some children. I veered off, because I got caught up in my own sweet memories. But you know what? I loved having friends who were only a few doors away, or up the block. I would ring their doorbell and ask if they could come out for a while. Technology did not bond us, being together did.                             


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paul January 29, 2013 at 03:50 PM
Absolutely a wonderful story. I have found that some people living on Long Island (if you want to call that living) live in a bubble. Do not know what walking is or even know who resides next to them.. So, so sad..... If I am outside doing yard work and see someone (a rare occasion) I would say hello or good morning. They look at me like why would I even say that and whether or not I was speaking to them.... We have gotten away from life's basics. Thank you for writing such a nice piece about who we really are but most do not even know it.... Thank you and good morning to you... ;o)
George January 31, 2013 at 12:01 AM
I agree with Paul, people not even knowing their neighbors, We have been living on the same block for 19 years now and also would see the occasional neighbor walking and would raise my hand to greet them and get that same look ( is he waving at me). There is a big decline in memberships in fraternal organizations (Moose, Elks, Freemasons) ect. Social clubs and meeting halls like VFW, American legion ect. It seems that technology while a plus has gotten in the way of the face to face interactions that were present not so long ago. Those really were the days, I’ll end with this, I was lying on the couch watching some sort of documentary, when I get a text from my 19 year old son last of my three children, His text say’s “ hey pop how about some breakfast” getting excited I put on my glasses and text back “sure when and where?” his respond was “how about a couple of pouched eggs toast and tea” I only just then realized he was texting me from his room , that is only 8 to 10 paces from where I was. I get up and knock and open his door and ask him are you kidding me? His response was “I’m in the middle of this game with my friends”. “What friends I asked, there is no one here”. He replies “No we are all playing from our houses”. Sheesh LOL
paul January 31, 2013 at 01:20 AM
George, we live in a sad state of affairs. Yes technology is a great innovation. But even with that one needs to remember how to stay active and interact in society...


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