I have lived in the same small town all my life: and the biggest difference between the way it was then and the way it is now is… you don’t see many people outside.
Zooming back to 1958 or so, it’s Saturday, a sunny day in the fall, and there just might be a high school football game today. You can always tell, once you hear the band tuning up. So everybody on our street flocks over to the football field to watch our team try to get the square root of the other team’s score. Drums, tubas, people cheering, referees’ whistles: I know the tune by heart.
But if it’s just a sunny day without a football game, then you’ve got adults outside raking and gathering leaves, and the delicious autumn aroma of burning leaves. Men tinkering with their cars. Women playing with small children. And the rest of us kids with a pickup game of football, either on the playground or in someone’s back yard. Or riding around on our bikes.
Now they’ve got these great big houses on little tiny lots and you never see anybody. The only people outdoors are out there because they have to go somewhere. As for kids just playing in the neighborhood–free ranging, making our own fun: but in reality all those adults outside were discreetly watching over us without making like guards on a chain gang–oh, perish the thought!
Give me the smaller houses with the bigger yards, and neighbors yakking with each other as they raked their leaves–what kind of conversation can you have, with leaf blowers roaring in your ears?–and maybe your folks might have a few friends over for cards that night; and you’d be up in bed, pretending to be asleep, but listening to the muffled talk and the not-so-muffled laughter downstairs and wishing you were old enough to join in.
Yeah, give me that. I’ll take it.