WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN?

   It’s a sunny, beautiful spring day. The trees are in full leaf, hydrangea bushes are budding, the scent of newly cut grass perfumes the air. Summer is coming!

Where are the children?

It’s late afternoon, but, other than the distant whispers of traffic noises from the main road, all is quiet outside my house.  My street is empty.  No bikes racing.  No kids chasing.  No basketballs thumping or skateboards bumping.

Where are the children?

After a dreary winter, cooped up in the house, wearing heavy clothes, heater blasting, and sleeping under thick blankets, I am eager to be out in the sunshine. 

I pluck a few weeds, chase my kitty around the yard, trek through the brambly, over-grown backyard, walk along the pier to sit on the warm wood of the dock anchored over Alewlfe’s Creek. I watch the water ripple, and spot snowy egrets wading.  One stands still, waiting to grab a fish or two.        

Where are the children?

When I was a kid, we couldn’t wait to get home from school, stash our books, grab a sweater, and rush outdoors to play in the late afternoon sun.

We’d jump-rope… jump, jump, jump, while chanting “Cinderella dressed in yella, went downstairs to kiss a fella;” Or “Teddybear, teddybear turn around. Teddybear, teddybear touch the ground.”  Then challenge our friends to some games of hopscotch…the board scratched in cement with pieces of chalk snitched from school.

Some days, we’d take a pile of jacks and a tiny ball to play out on our covered breezeway, the best spot, where we wouldn’t scrape our knuckles and the ball bounced just right.

Or else we’d clamp metal roller skates over our shoes and race up and down the sidewalks, then chase each other all the way down the block to Sweeny’s corner drug-store, clomp to the counter, plunk down our nickels, and order five cent, ice-cold, refreshing, cherry Cokes.

Other days we’d play hide-n-seek, red rover, red light, green light, or Mother May I? in the new green grass of each other’s yards. Or take out our beat-up, second-hand bikes and speed off down the street, hair flying free, sun kissing our rosy cheeks, shouting, “Look, Ma!  No hands!”

But the best adventures were reserved for week-ends. We’d play Cowboys and Indians with the neighbor kids, dash across our adjoining lawns, gleefully “shooting” and “maiming” each other with our toy cap guns, then hide-out, behind old sheds lining the allies, to ambush our enemies. Sometimes, we’d get our rusty, red wagon, put the younger kids in and pull our “wagon-train” way out west, all around the whole square block.

Where are the children?

One Saturday we were inspired to build a homestead.

We’d been running in and out of the house all day and by mid-afternoon Mother was irritated. I thought of setting up a bathroom out back, nestled among a bunch of fruit trees. So, we carted a bucket up from the basement, pilfered a couple of tattered sheets from the linen closet, and got to work. We nailed the sheets up for privacy, filled the bucket with water from a garden hose, and lugged it behind the “curtains”. Voila! An outdoor commode!

That night Dad got a phone call. The little girl next door tattled to her mom about our creation.  The woman immediately telephoned my dad. The woman threatened to call the Health Department if our out-house wasn’t dismantled ASAP. So, with dad supervising, I dumped the contents of the bucket down the sewer, washed it off, and set it down in the garage to dry.

Undaunted, the next day we were on to other, more exciting exploits.

Where are the children?

Our elementary school, Harriet Beecher Stowe, was perched on a hill, four houses down from our house (long before chain-link fences, no trespassing and no gun signs barred kids from school grounds after hours).

One blue-sky Saturday, we wandered up to the playground. Soon bored with the swings and jungle gym, we decided to explore the far side of the building. A grove of trees grew tall from the neighboring yard, grazing the tops of the school’s second floor windows. My best friend, Judy, noticed some vines tangled in the branches and dangling within reach. Suddenly, she snatched one and swung out into thin air….shouting: “Me Tarzan! You Jane!”. Soon everyone was swinging from the vines like a troop of monkeys,until our moms called us home for supper.

Back from my pleasant reverie, I marvel at the hushed silence of my surroundings….and wonder.

Where are the children?

Dianne Moritz writes from her home in Southampton,NY.  A former teacher, she has published 3 picture books for children.  GOING ON A GHOST HUNT will be out in fall 2022.

2 thoughts on “WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN?”

  1. This is such a wonderful read! So heartwarming and a reminder of the days when children weren’t cooped up inside their homes, hypnotized by electronic devices. The world has really changed. I think many children don’t even know the concept of playful and outdoor activities anymore. I’m glad we grew up in a different day and age. 🙂

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  2. Me, too. I wrote this essay as a fall version awhile ago and it was published in my local newspaper. I taught children for 15 years…I hardly recognize this new generation. I cherish memories of my childhood with all the fun, adventure, and shenanigans. Thank you, Terveen.

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