Sunday, March 13, 2005

Nobody's Mother Is Home Anymore

Notes Taken When I Last Lived In A Larger City

"The kids all play in the parking lot at this apartment complex, despite the fact that there are lots of sidewalks and a large grassy field area intended for use as a playground. When I drive home from work I see the same thing, kids playing in the street in front of their houses and ignoring their own big yards.

Is there anywhere in this city, anywhere in the world, I wonder, where the kids aren't playing in the streets? I understand how children think of it, because I used to be one. But when I was too young to worry about such things because I was a know-it-all and felt immortal, others worried for me. My mother screamed as if Jesus had just died if she caught me playing ball games in the street or even just not keeping alert when I was on my bike. Even neighbors who knew you would give you hell sometimes and you didn't want them to tell your mother! It seems to me that half the mommies aren't home these days and the half who are home must be Quaalude mommies who are standing at their windows, grinning like idiots and spending the insurance money in advance while they watch their kids play tag and chicken with tons and tons of steel."

Back To The Present

I suppose I know a lot more mommies now than I did fifteen years ago when I wrote that. Because I know them, I can't imagine them behaving that carelessly with their children. Still, all those children one continues to see in the parking lots belong to someone, not to nobody. But not being able to imagine it is no guarantee that such bad things can't happen. I also often imagine that most of my upstanding friends wouldn't be guilty of really reckless driving, then finally I'm in the car with them when they pull an amazingly irresponsible stunt. What chance does a child playing in a parking lot have if you and I and the other adults can't even manage to play it safe for ourselves?

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