Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Children's Hour



The New Kids on the Block (see previous post) are at it again. A dozen boys and girls are outside milling around, going back and forth on the street just s few feet from my screen porch. There is no pattern to their movement, no discernible speech, just a random dance, back and forth, punctuated by chirps, grunts and squawks. The group is like an aeomeba, constantly flowing and changing shape. As the twilight deepens, the voices get quieter, the outbursts are fewer. A couple of the kids peel off from the group in order to be home before dark.

I don't mind it. This group doesn't have any bullies, taunters or fighters- at least not yet. It's only posturing and checking each other out. The darker it gets, the more it reminds me of those nights from my youth- hanging out, doing nothing, yet being fascinated by the intense social interplay going on between us kids. If anything, I should feel regret, but for what? We had our halcyon days of yore. They were a good thing, unstructured play, it was the last true play of childhood before everything changed.

And now, back in the present, there is a shout of "Let's go!" and the sound of sneakers slapping the pavement; the music of the kids' laughter starts to fade away. It's quite dark now, and from down the block a girl's voice rings out distinctly: "Can I have a hug?" Murmurs, more laughs, then, only the night sounds of the city: the dull roar of distant traffic, the hum from the factory a couple of blocks away, a motorcycle going through its gears, and the mournful cry of a train horn. The children's hour is over.

By Professor Batty



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