It’s funny how the words, “Junior, you should go outside,” is now interpreted as something shy of a death sentence. Back in the day, the opposite (“You know what, Junior, you keep your little butt in the house!”) could mean the end of a child’s existence.
Of course, a social network was once determined by how many friends a kid actually had. On a warm day, there wasn’t enough time to fit all of it in. We’d go from climbing trees, to playing in the park, to building clubhouses, to stupid skateboard tricks, to swimming, to acting like our favorite music groups (for me and my buddies, it was the Jackson 5, and there was a fight over who was going to be able to be Michael), to reading comic books, to… The possibilities were endless.
Heaven forbid we got a heavy rain and were stuck in the house all day! Granted, we could spend the afternoons trying disrupt our little sisters’ tea parties, drawing, and reading, but it wasn’t the same as being outdoors!
There was freedom to be found and a seemingly endless amount of adventures to be had.
The thing that was really cool for me was when my maternal grandparents relocated to the country. It was funny because, though we were just an hour away from home, it seemed like we were in some Mississippi backwater. The people were cordial, with drivers honking and waving to say hello.
My grandparents had once lived in the Deep South, so it was almost like a return to what they were used to. That also meant that children had no business being in the house on a nice day.
That was perfectly fine by me and my cousins. If we were lucky, we would be able to spend spring break or a couple of weeks of our summer vacations at our grandparents’ home. There were creeks to scope out, fishing to do, and long, long hikes until we got lost. It was a welcome change for a city boy like me.
When I was young, there were no cellular phones for the common family. Our parents instilled quite a bit of trust, usually not having a clue of which direction we headed on a beautiful day.
My brother, sister, and I would often walk all over Chicago’s South Side. Our mother might give us a dollar for bus fare, but we’d pocket it to purchase penny candy for our long strolls. We would even talk our friends into joining us.
The only rule was to be back home by dark. Even then, we would be allowed outside in a limited capacity.
I recall getting our first video game system: an Atari 2600. Though we were enamored with what we considered top-of-the-line graphics back then, we knew our allotment was typically an hour a day. We were fascinated by Pac Man (where the character only faced one direction, the maze never changed, and the game looked nothing like the arcade version) and Pong but our hearts were to be found in the parks, at the pools, near the lake, and popping wheelies on a side street with friends. Because outdoors was were the real magic existed.