Riding Metro North. Walking backwards.

7:34 p.m. train. Grand Central station. Last peak hour train home. Standing room only. Heads down, glowing screens, wifi slow, thousands sucking on the same straw. Pages loading slowly, then stopping altogether. One head, after another, mine too, lifting in frustration.  Beach ball spinning, locked up. There’s a message in this. To thousands of us sitting on this train. Whether we are listening, now that is another story.

8:31 p.m. Walk home. Down the platform. Up the stairs. Across the bridge over I-95. Up the hill – and the last 1/4 mile stretch, before losing this tie, this shirt sticking to my back, and these leather shoes strapped around my feet for last 12 hours. Free me, please!

I see them in the distance. Two boys, 7 or 8 years old, kicking a soccer ball on front yard. Mom sitting on the porch reading. When’s the last time I’ve seen this?

It’s an old photograph with fading edges. I slow my pace and the hard drive spins back. My brother Rich, and 2 cousins, Billy and Jim.

Rushing through dinner to play outside.

Stick ball after dinner, until it is so dark you can’t see the ball.

Kick ball until boredom, or exhaustion,

Touch football, ending in shoving matches, scraped knees and elbows, or bloody noses.

Hide & Seek, until the youngest gives up in frustration and disappears.

Dropping sticks in the stream, and racing our “boats” in the snow cap run off from high up in the Cascades.

I pass the boys and their Mom.  And walk by the next yard, and the next and the next and the next, and look down the street. A heaviness sets in. Like these bones need to carry more.

Yards are empty.

TV screens glow inside.

Where are our children?

What will they remember?

I round the final turn thinking about Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” Dark. Apocalyptic.

“Where you’ve nothing else construct ceremonies out of the air and breathe upon them.”

No. Please.

No.


Notes:

  • Inspired by Jim Harrison: “Sixty-eight years later I can still inhabit that boy’s body without thinking of the time between.”
  • Image: RozArt.
  • Related Posts: Commuting

Comments

  1. selecting childhood memories of anything outdoors–appreciating memories, that I have them of such intense, joyous freedom…thanks for refreshing them, David!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Quite often, I speak of these very early memories, with regards to my son, and even thinking of mine. In Switzerland, it seems that children still have the right to be children, for a long time. They go to Kindergarten at age of approx end of 4/5 yrs and start ‘serious’ school at around 7yrs old. We had 1:1 comparisons with kids of the same age as ours… They were ‘pressed and formed’ at a much earlier age but guess what: Although ours did a lot of being outdoors, doing stuff, being silly and carefree, at the age of 20 or so they were exactly at the same level of info a the kids of other countries. BUT they had a childhood.
    Then, of course, we didn’t have TV (by choice), we did all our games/plays/interactions & dramas on a real life basis.
    A beautiful and utterly depressing post, David. I wish for you to not have to do all that travelling to and fro but know it’s probably not by your choice either. Do get that DOG! Something to look forward to… going out, instead of running with your pace-counter and music in your ears, listen – while walking/running with your pet – to the sounds of your surrounding, birds, pets, waves, the shivering of the leaves on the trees AND the joyful barking of your mut. Just do it! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  3. there is hope in the mother on the front porch reading and the children playing outside, free and easy. there is always hope –

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Spot on, DK. I have an inventory of snapshots in my brain: climbing (and occasionally falling out of) trees, riding my bike the mile or so to the river to skip rocks and look for rats (it was the city), riding to a truck yard after hours and climbing on the trucks and other equipment. . . all unsupervised and all now considered too dangerous. Oh, did I mention I used to often ride in the back of a pickup truck? How did I manage to survive to age 58?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi David

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The Road! What a depressing thought. Life will never be like it was when we were young (for better or worse) but at least we aren’t quite in as bad a situation as in that book. It’s certainly a warning for us all though. Let’s hope we can salvage something good in the next years.

    Like

  7. I know exactly what you are talking about. Whenever I see such a scene, I think there are not enough children allowed to be children (or forced to be 😉 ). No one knocks on doors to see if a child can come and play. And if there were some, they are sent away because the parents must be in a position to hover and prohibit and referee…
    I used to get looked at with huge googly eyes when I said that my children went to the park without me. How the hell else are they to learn how to handle life?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Beautifully limned, pal, but damn. I’m with Kiki…maybe log a few less hours in the office and get that dog! Can’t do a puppy? Loads of wonderful adults in shelters looking for a forever home. We can’t fix everything, but we can effect change in our own little spheres….

    Liked by 2 people

  9. You touch on a very important issue Dave, and I just asked my 15yr old daughter as she sat looking at her phone! “Will you encourage your beautiful children, my grandchildren to play and be in nature and explore all its beauty and fun?” and she looks up from her phone and says, “Oh yes, I’m going to be an earth mother like you, and teach them all about spending time outside!” I said, “Well you are going to have to get off your phone to do that ha 🙄!!” But I pray you do April. I hope you do.” 🌴🎄🌾☘🙏🏻

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Beautifully written, David 🙂
    The one image coming to my mind now is the kids, when they were kids, coming in after a long day outside. Deliciously tired and wasted. Sweaty and sticky cheeks, with a taste of mud. Just enough energy for a bath, a sandwich and hot milk with honey.

    I hardly ever played outside but my younger siblings did.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. The Road … it’s not gonna happen!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Anonymous says:

    Shut off TV and take away the phones and tablets! We shut it all down 10 months ago with no particular plan as to how long. Since then the backyard has come alive with a fort, buried time capsules in the woods, a bike trail in the back woods, a snow board course this winter complete with jumps, and most recently a bunch of rock sculptures in the garden. All imagined and created at the hands of a 12 and 13 year old. Looking forward to what they come up with this summer!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve never been around kids much, but now my two grand nephews are close by. It’s weird, alien, how they hardly know how to play. My sister is a great encourager—stretching their tiny attention spans with fort-building & nature scavenger hunts. But the Screens take over like weeds if the ground is left fallow for a moment.

    Like

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