Friday’s Weekend Column
Where are the Children?

by James Glaser
August 18, 2006

I have been living in Tallahassee for ten months now, and it has dawned on me that there are never any children playing in public. I don't see them in the parks, in the street, nor even in yards.

In fact, the only children I have ever seen playing down here was one morning on a walk. I was heading up Wilson Street, which has a long steep hill going down to Miccosukee. There was a boy about ten pushing his, what I would guess, little sister down the hill in a shopping cart from some grocery store. It looked scary as hell, but they were having a ball, and they did make it to the bottom safely.

When I was a kid, we played kick ball in the street. We were always in the neighborhood playing one game or another. Cowboys and Indians, tag, hide and seek, we climbed trees, we road bikes, had push cars we made out of wood, and in the summer we would walk up to the Highland pool every chance we had.

Every school had a playground with equipment, and it was open to the public after school, weekends, and all summer long. Any evening a person could sit out on their front steps and listen to the sounds of children playing.

What has happened, and where did the kids go? Is it video games, or are people afraid to let their children out of their sight?

Going to school as a youngster I can remember every boy had a pocket knife or even a sheath knife. We all played mumbley-peg at recess. I can't remember all the rules, but I remember holding the tip of the knife blade on my knee, hip, elbow, and fingers, flipping it off with the other hand and making it stick in the ground. We also played 'stretch' with our knives. Two kids would face each outer, feet together, and one would throw his knife to the side and the other would have to stretch his foot over to the knife and pick it up and it would then be his turn. If your opponent couldn't stretch to the knife, but you could, you would win.

Yes, some kids did get a cut, but the school nurse had band-aids, and so did every mother on the block. You have to remember not that long ago, if you got hurt at school, nobody ever thought of suing. There was something called personal responsibility.

None of this explains what has happened to the children down here. I don't even see kids riding bikes. I know the schools are filled, and high school sports are big down here. I see lots of young adults every time I go to a mall, but outside play is not to be seen. I'll start asking parents what the story is.

It is still hot down here, and I have the studio essentially finished. I bought drawing paper, I have the wood and tools I need, and starting Monday morning I will be working full time on sculpture and furniture. I am starting out with a wall piece, an abstract relief out of walnut, oak, and cherry. I also plan on making some boxes, with inlay of a contrasting wood, so they look like they have strapping holding them together. It is kind of exciting to start some new projects.

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