It might be hard for younger generations to believe, but there was a time when kids had more freedom of movement and more alone time than they do now. Before the age of helicopter parents and cell phones, parents didn’t always know where their kids were. There were many days as a kid where I would leave the house on my bike in the morning and not come home until dinner. I would ride all over the place, maybe go see friends or try to drum up a football or baseball game. My parents didn’t keep track of my every move or make me check in with them every hour.
What’s changed? Technology certainly has but it seems like it’s more than that. A 24 hour news cycle that has to fill time might have something to do with it, as the cable news channels are always looking for the horrific child abduction stories. Did those things always happen and not get publicized or are they more frequent in recent years? I don’t know the answer. I do know that the level of independence that I enjoyed as a kid toughened me up a bit and sometimes forced me to deal with situations that helped me grow. It definitely taught me how to be prepared for any eventuality. My kids refuse to wear winter coats despite living in Buffalo. Why? Because they are never stranded anywhere for long, I suppose.
There was a great place in the neighborhood that I grew up that was known as The Fields. It was an undeveloped piece of land, overgrown with weeds and tall plants. Adults never went there, only kids. We spent countless hours there, playing all sorts of games. It was a haven from the adult world. Older kids would hang out there and smoke. There was a burned out house back in the woods and only the foundation remained. I used to walk through the foundation of the house and wonder who lived there and what happened to them.
We would run through the fields and play army games or pretend that we were on a strange planet in the Star Trek universe. We were only limited by our imaginations and by the fading sunlight.
In 1985, Sting put out of his first solo album, Dream of the Blue Turtles. Gone were the good vibe, reggae infused tunes of The Police. In their place were jazz infused tunes that came across as more mature and with more serious themes. The last song on the album is Fortress Around Your Heart, which includes the following lines :
As I returned across the fields I’d known
I recognised the walls that I once made
I had to stop in my tracks for fear
Of walking on the mines I’d laid
This lyric has always reminded me of my days in The Fields.