The Five-Oh

Walking across the parking lot to my car on the day before my 50th birthday, i heard them before i saw them.  Squeals.  Hoots and hollers.  The sound of the chains on the swing set squeaking as the older children pumped skyward in canvas slings.  Giggles, laughs and squawks.

“Child Development Center”.  What was called a “Day Care” when my children were small.  Before that?  We called them “baby sitters” before “newspeak” demanded higher purpose.

Doesn’t matter what you call it.  It’s the sound of a village taking care of children.

There’s one just across the street from my office, and i am occasional sent tripping down memory lane when i hear those sounds.  The happy sounds of small humans in the throes of unstructured play.  Outside.

In the winter, i am delighted to see them in their Eskimo coats, bundled up, and soaking in the distant, ineffective sun.  They go out after lunch every day, and again at the end of the day.  So long as it’s not pissing rain or ice.  And they play.  Without adults coaching, controlling the field, or telling them where to go and what to do.  Gently kicking them back into play when they go out-of-bounds.  Certainly referring the occasional fight.

On the bikes with Studley after work last week, i was quite surprised to see a little kid, maybe three years old, standing in his back yard.  As we cruised along the bikeway, he was poking at the bark on a tree, and pulling leaves.  Deeply ensconced in the mechanics of being a small child. Whatever he was doing, it was pretty important.  Dad was in a lawn chair about thirty yards away.  Reading a book.  NOT entertaining him.

Something i rarely see anymore.

Every day, i spot dozens of minivans with children lashed into the back seat, watching videos on the on-board entertainment systems.  i swear at the traffic jam near the soccer fields, as parents rush home from work, feed their kids on the fly, and cart them off to recreational practices.

But i’m still astonished to see a child at play.

Growing up?  The neighborhood was lousy with suburban yard urchins. We were kicked outside after breakfast, fed lunch on the picnic table, expected to be home for dinner when the Dads arrived home, launched out til twilight, when we were called home for the night.  Repeat until Labor Day.

We played.  Army.  Kickball, whiffleball, softball, football.  Climbed trees and swiped apples.  Ate green apples until we got “the trots”.  Built forts.  Fought.  Bullied and got bullied.  Created imaginary adult scenarios with suitcases full of Barbie dolls, who were insidiously destroying our natural body images. Complex games of “Private Investigator”, complete with dossiers on the neighbors.

i love hearing those happy squeals from the little critters as they push trikes and scooters around the yard.  It’s nice to hear them playing, even for an hour a day. Even inside a fence at the baby sitters a day care a child development center.

We’ve robbed our children.  Swiped something very important from them in the name of “good parenting”.  In the millions of ways we’ve fucked them over?  i believe this is among the worst….

pic that could have been from my childhood found here

Post-script:  Wrote a rough draft of this at my desk this morning. At the ripened age of 50 years and three days.  The nostalgia.  The glimmers of wisdom that have come with age.  Feeling ancient.  Absent-mindedly rubbing my hand across my chin, i encountered yet another unmistakable sign of age — one of those fucking chin whiskers, with the constitution of steel, that spring up over-night.  Stroking my granny-spike with annoyance, i then encountered  something else.  Something fresh.  Bringing the unmistakable sign of greasy youth.  A grape-sized subcutaneous zit, about to erupt right next to that fucking chin hair.  [sigh]

61 thoughts on “The Five-Oh

    • THERE YOU ARE! i had somehow lost you in the ether, my dear! Very glad to find you again… i am having ‘attention span’ issues, and have put you back in my reader… will see you again soon! i may have a chance to be in Dublin, and would love to find you there! will track down the Yeats poem…

  1. I forgot how good and how absolutely honest and funny you are. Where have I been! I see you at my place and mean go come over. Just don’t get here … or much of anywhere lately. I love this. It could have been my childhood too, and I am seventy. I think childhood just gets a bit more confined as the years pass. Strap ’em in and force feed the gruel, I reckon. Good to read your stuff again, Daisy! 🙂

    • Thank you, lovely lady! i find that these days i can either read, or post, and have been spending far more time reading blogs than writing — which works out pretty well, as my blog mates have far more skill and passion for the blog medium than i do these days…

      with my spawn, now 25 and 23, we tried to balance the structured and unstructured. it’s hard to keep them out of activities when you want your child to have every opportunity and be exposed to so many things… but we kept each to one thing at a time. and i even took a month off work without pay in the summers for a bit, just so they could sleep in and play in the neighbhorhood during some of those elementary school years. a balance that seemed to work for us…

  2. *sigh* just got off the phone after talking to super nana and all i can say is, my baby girl is having a baby girl! time, sugar, there used to be so much of it. but, on the up side, we ain’t wastin’ a bit of what’s left! cheers, birthday girlie! ;~) xoxoxoxo

    • i can’t even begin to think about grandchildren! agree that the trick is to not waste a breath. but naps? naps are in fact NOT wasted breaths. it’s a fine line… xoxo

  3. Don’t get me started on the chin hairs, girl. Meanwhile it really is sad that kids now don’t get outside and play like we did—I don’t see kids in the playground or riding bikes. It’s all video games and the Internet and stuff now. I guess we really are going to be come like the people in Wall-E one of these days. On that happy note, happy birthday +3 !

    • i am diligent with the whiskers, and yet they can grow OVERNIGHT to a quarter inch, or longer. chin hairs are my demon. as are zits. damn it…

      i will occasionally see a few kids out playing baseball in a back yard, or riding bikes on the bike path, but in general, kids are not out and about doing kid things on their own any longer… a loss… for all of us, i think…

  4. Happy Birthday, Daisyfae. And many more to come!
    You’re right about the theft of childhood, however it’s stolen, it diminishes us all.
    (Kids need to be happy as kids cos one day, they’ll be faced with chin hairs and failing bladders, right?) 😦 or 🙂

    • Thanks, dinamow! It’s been a very good birthday season for me! No complaints…

      For my children, our summer adventures camping taught them all about going off the grid and dealin with “bored”. They told stories. A cooler became a motorcycle. A stand of trees? A jail. They were at their absolute most creative without structure or stimulus… i think they are better humans for it. Plus? They can both cook over an open fire. Useful skills…

        • growing up, TV was a Saturday morning or ‘after dark’ thing… watched a good bit of it, but not when the sun was out!

        • when I was growing up in NZ television only showed a test pattern until 6:00 pm. do kids nowadays even know what a test pattern looks like?

          PS: has my birthday present arrived yet?

        • there are SO many channels these days, i’m generally overwhelmed. and end up leaving the tv on for background noise on the same network most of the time that i’m home… don’t really watch much….

          i’m out of town for a bit — not sure if the package arrived! will let you know!

  5. Happy birthday, Dais’.

    Welcome to the “Fabulous Fifties”. We’ll see if we can make them as spectacular as your “Fun Forties”.

    I, too, had adult scenarios with Barbie dolls, but have a feeling those weren’t quite the same as the ones you are suggesting… (Why, yes, I do have a filthy mind, why do you ask?).

    • Thank you, darlin’! Our Barbie doll scenarios were pretty brutal… it was a female-centric world, where the Ken dolls and GI Joe doll action figures were merely props in our lives. Occasionally suffering mutilation and amputation… What were you saying about that “filthy mind”? 😉

    • i am obsessive about tweezers. if i could find the perfect tweezers? i’d attempt to form a domestic partnership with said tweezers. But i’m always on the lookout for a better pair… zits. wrinkles. i can manage those. but the damn facial hair? really? REALLY!?!?! i NEVER planned to be the one giving little kids whisker rubs…

  6. Hilarious! Hope you had a great Birthday, Daisyfae!
    You’ve opened the floodgate of memories of my summers spent playing with neighborhood kids till dark! Yes, that was me, too! Those were the good ol’ days!! 🙂

    • It was a grand week — huge throwdown the weekend before, and then a series of fun/play dates all week long! plus, managed to put almost 70 miles on my bicycle over just 5 days — good exercise/adventure in the mix!

      never wanted to be one of those folks talking about “the good old days”, but here we are. and they really were wonderful times…. not just sugar-coating my memories, i had a marvelous childhood. and wish every kid could have lived the life we had. not wealthy, but rich… glad you enjoyed the trip down memory lane…

  7. Happy belated birthday.
    You are soooo right. We did a lot of things that we perhaps would not have been allowed to had we asked, but we were home for dinner. We gained independence to go with the independence our parents had granted. And it was a better world. Dinosaur woman signing off now.

    • we were daredevils! rope swings, skinny dipping, unsupervised games of football. and – EEEGADS – riding bicycles without helmets! spending hours outside in the hot sun without bottled water!?!? Oh, how did we survive?

  8. Happy birthday – I’m close behind you in this race – roll on October. 🙂

    I know with our kids part of it was where we lived they were pretty much the only kids their age on the road the Jehovah’s up the road had two slightly older than ours but they never mixed much. So we did cart them to others houses to play.

    We welcomed kids to us – my son is 22 and I know that now he is back from uni for summer two faces that I’ve seen since they were 5 or 6 will soon reappear – these days it is “off to the pub” or “can we comender the bluray to watch this” but still great.

    But yes – you never see kids playing up and down streets like we did. Partly the idiots who scream up our road to save 5 seconds on their journey don’t help… But somewhere we took kids innocence and adventure away – we weren’t smart doing that

    • when my spawn were young, there were a ton of boys in the neighborhood, but only a few girls my daughters age – so the young ladies had more play dates, and sleep overs… it is a lot of fun to see them still getting together, as adults. my daughters best pal is a girl she’s known since she was 10 years old. my son? he’s on another set of friends, but i still see many of his sk8rboyz around and they are quick with the hugs…

      don’t worry too much about the ‘5-0’. it’s a number… onward!

    • Thank you! it was absolutely lovely! celebrated for about a week – and may continue to do more celebrating for the rest of this month. just because!

    Enjoy the day … celebrate the LIFE! =)
    Sorry i’m late ….
    I hope you had a FANTASTIC day!

    I had the exact same childhood!
    Kick-the-can, Tag, Hid-n-seek, forts, football, baseball, Barbie blowing up Ken and GI Joe (I was raised by mostly boys …. I had to get even with them for cutting all the hair off my Barbies), camping out in makeshift tents.
    I miss those days.
    We NEVER came in till it was dark! lol

    These days, I work with kids,and when I ask what their summer plans are, it’s all about being at this Daycare, Daycamp and organized sports.
    They never say, “Swimming all day, riding bikes a bit,collecting bugs/rocks, baseball and building a tree fort!”
    MY kids are never inside! lol
    My oldest lives on the basketball courts and my youngest spreads his time between the park, his BFF’s house, riding his bike and saving the world with his Nerf Gun wars! lol
    They do this year ’round …. except for the really nasty days.
    It makes my heart happy when I see them PLAY.
    So many kids have forgotten how ….. as have so many adults.

    • thanks! been a good week! and more fun ahead, as i’m on a mini-holiday with Studley for a few days!

      cool that your young ‘uns know the joy of play. and outside. and bike riding and nerf gun wars…. i think it just makes for better humans!

  10. “Happy Birthday” and thanks for the trip down memory lane. It sounded a lot like my childhood and the street I grew up on.
    Our neighborhood was made up of houses built after the second World War. People moved there, started raising large families, and by the time I came along at the tail-end of ours back in 1962, the neighborhood was a cluster-fuck of children. We were NEVER inside. There was too much to do and too many other kids to do it with to stay inside. I made sure when my kids were growing up they did the same. Talk to them now and they’d tell ya I ‘kicked’ them out of the house everyday. Ha..ha.. Yeah, they were probably right. Tv, internet, video games, and cell phones has become this generations entertainment and instant babysitter. It’s very sad.
    Right behind you on the birthday. I turn 50 in November. Woo-hoo! Here’s to aging with character, babe. 😉

    • “kicking the kids outside” is one of the best things we can do for them! “Go on out, ya little bastard! Momma needs to watch her stories…” – although i never actually said that, i always sort of wanted to!

      Here’s hoping all of the other “50’s” this year have as much fun as i have had with this little milestone! i’m a lucky pup…

    • planning a couple more trips, dear, so you’re gonna have to pay up! very glad to hear that there are still pockets of ‘free style childhood’ out there…. i see it sometimes, and it makes me happy…..

    • Welcome to the park, Nota Bene – and thanks for stopping by…. i may have been raised in a virtual trailer park in some ways, but i had perhaps the ideal childhood in so many other ways. We didn’t know anything other than what we had, and it was glorious! i’ll look up Mr. McGregor… Thanks for your kind words. i don’t consider myself a writer – just a hack. But it is therapeutic….

  11. First off, Happy muthaeffin’ birfday… and now that that’s out of the way, i do my best to stay out of the boyos way you know, that’s not to say i’m not involved cuz i am but i encourage them to do their own thing, when we go to the park i usually sit on a bench and watch them run around and grin like an idiot, they don’t need me standing over their shoulder, when they ride their bikes i sit on the porch and let them go, the only time i’m really needed is to administer to cuts and scrapes, which reminds me, while bullshitting with the I-mac while he was taking his bath last night i counted 3 scrapes on one knee, one on the other, one on his elbow, another on his arm and one on his hip, fucking hell to be almost 6 again, when i pointed them out he smiled proudly at me as if they were medals earned in battle, i told him it’s hard to believe but his old man once looked about the same way, then he put his mouth to his arm and made fart noises and we laughed like hell.

    • thanks, darlin’…. i’m thinking i need to take two months off this summer and run around the country having birthday drinks with my blogmates!

      love your stories of life with the boyos… and a scraped up child is a happy child. or at least a balance child, with the immune system of a cockroach!

      and the fart noises? i will NEVER forget the two week camping trip we took to the atlantic provinces of canada when my son was about 5 years old. he spent the time in the car – all 5,000 miles of it – perfecting the armpit fart. even graduated to the ‘back of the knee’ fart, too. it was sheer joy…

  12. Lovely throwback to days gone bye. I am glad that both of my weans marveled at just being outside at any time.
    Cheers, Sausage

  13. And a very happy birthday season to you, Daisyfae! It seems that we share an attitude about birthdays…. I had a season as well. After all, why does it all have to happen on one day???

    I had a similar childhood, playing outside, a sand box, bikes – no kick the can though. Long treks through the valleys and hills of the Rockies where we lived, watching the flowers bloom and the birds grow up. It seems that in this area, anyway, a move towards more outside unstructured play has begun. Perhaps there is a reaction to all the ‘inside” stuff happening.

    Your comment about chin whiskers and zits reminds me of the time when I was on a consumer opinion poll list. Once they sent me a sample of a cream to try out that was supposed to make you look younger by gently exfoliating. This was at the beginning of the alpha hydroxy revolution, when they hadn’t got the dosages and the buffers completely worked out. Anyway, dutiful pollster that I was, I began using the cream. I used it twice, and then ceased applying it to my skin. As I informed the company I was reporting to, it DID make me look a lot younger, but not in the way that I was hoping for, as the crop of zits that appeared overnight made my apparent age suddenly jump from 35 to 14….

    • had forgotten about the sand box — no ‘plastic turtle’ for us. dad dug a hole in the side yard, then put tall bricks in around it before filling it with sand. we could (at least in theory) dig to china in that sandbox! and we tried… could bury each other, too, becoming the ‘smoke monster’ when we emerged. it was glorious!

      your tale of ‘pollster’ cracked me up – gives whole new meaning to ‘zit cream’… ha!

  14. My brother and I are almost nine years apart, and a lot changed during those nine years. I always played kickball and baseball and catch outside all summer. By the time my brother came along, Nintendo had, too.

    Happy birthday, Daisy! If you make it up to Boston this summer, I’ll share some of my post-surgery Oxy with you.

    • may not make it this summer, but planning a trip up north for a wedding this autumn! will track you down… and perhaps bring a bag of bananagrams! no need to share the oxy… unless you’re done with it!

  15. You read these, good. You need to know – OK, I need you to know – that I think of you often. At least daily, sometimes more. I’m not sure and don’t care why, but there it is. Still smitten, oh yes I am, but like all love affairs, it’s eased a bit. I haven’t obsessed over your blog until today, when I sailed through 2012. There are some missing years I need to go back to, as I spend an inordinate amount of time with you as the friend in my head. Good thing there’s lots of room, because you do take up space, in the most charming way. This is a check-in, nothing more, but as always there’s a catch: Drinks, dinner, roller-derby, Little River. Something. Sometime. No hurry.

    • What? My sexy local stalker chick has de-lurked? Glad that you still have me rattling around in your brain – you’re in mine as well. Let me know if i get too rowdy, and start knocking over the furniture and shit. Very smitten as well — timing is the bitch of it. Slammed through the end of the month. July looks better for something… Perhaps motorbikes to a roller derby bout, followed by pedicures and a pillow fight?

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