November 13, 2004

Born in a Small Town

I've been away a town where the only hotel didn't have Internet access, so sorry for the blank page.

The town was about the size of Sandusky, MI, which is where I spent years 7 to 11 1/2. It was a place where you could ride your bike to the library (unsupervised...I often did) and to piano lessons. In 3rd or 4th grade, I was old enough (and safe enough) to be left alone a couple of hours after school with a list of chores and a longer list of rules.

And this town had the small-town friendly thing going on, too. I've been in urban or demi-urban areas long enough that I'd forgotten what that was. EVERYONE said hello. People (okay, more men) looked you over curiously because you But they were friendly - oh were they friendly.

I learned about strangers' cats (and talked about my own) and chatted it up with a couple of airport employees about various things (including the Packers; I was in Wisconsin, after all).

But I'm home 2 days now and back to my citywary self. You don't acknowledge others and make eye contact - you just do your thing and get it done. Advantages to both.


Posted by hln at November 13, 2004 07:10 PM | Anecdote | TrackBack

It's funny. I grew up in South St. Louis, but I had similar unsupervised permission, too. I started going to Cardinal games on the bus with my friends when I was in 5th grade, I think. Maybe the summer between 4th and 5th. I rode my bike to the Mississippi River just south of Jefferson Barracks when I was in 7th grade. Dan Psaris and I would walk to Tower Tee (about 6 miles) to hit in the batting cages twice a week. We went to baseball practice and games, basketball games, everywhere, without parental supervision.

Last week, my son who's 13 missed his bus and walked to school. Or tried to. We live in Wildwood, where the crime rate is actually negative--criminals are victims. Anyway, he got about 1/4 of the way to school when three police stopped him. They put him into a squad car and took him to his school. They refused to leave the school, or release him from the school, until they'd "had a talk" with me.

I asked them what the big deal was.

"Kids can't walk to school," was the answer.

"Is that a law?"

"I don't know. But it's not right."


Maybe, instead of hiding ourselves and our kids behind walls, we should take back the damn streets. I want my kids to walk to school and to Schnucks and to Mobil for a Slushee. I want to put them on a bus to go to a baseball game. It irks me that my neighborhood, which is the Cleavers' neighborhood compared to where I grew up, is considered too dangerous for a teenager to walk to school in broad daylight.

Posted by: Bill Hennessy at November 13, 2004 10:39 PM