I was at the Bonita Springs YMCA yesterday, thinking about how different it was growing up in the “old days”. As kids, it wasn’t uncommon for us to play outside without any adults around the entire day. The only thing that could bring me inside was the faint sound of my mothers voice in the dusk calling me to dinner. Well… except that one time.
It was one of those hot summers in Bonita when the sound of heat bugs filled the still air. My friends and I were ten or so and had never seen an actual “hill”. We knew they existed and that you could ride sleds down them on something called snow, but that was about it. We were desperate to experience the thrill of a ride down a steep hill, wind in our hair, propelled by gravity and a reckless disregard for our teeth. But the closest thing to a hill that we could find was the side of the railroad track that still cuts through Bonita. The slope was pretty steep, so we began to take our wagons up on the track, pack ourselves in and shove ourselves off. It was great… for about 3 seconds and then we would crash and burn; sprawled at the bottom of a ditch, chins “bonking” on the back of heads, knees into mouths, elbows into eyes… laughing, rolling around in the sand. It was great!
But we were always looking for a steeper slope… a more thrilling ride. One day, we were searching along the ditch, pushing the head high brush down as we walked, when suddenly, there in front of us… was a man, laying face down and completely motionless like he had fell from an airplane. We had all watched enough TV to know what to do next… RUN! When we got to my mom, we were covered in sand spurs and out of breath. I calmly explained the situation. “THERE’S SOME GUY IN THE DITCH!!!” My mom raised a single eyebrow. “Let’s go see.” By the time we got to the scene of the crime… he was gone. Mom knew by our bugged out eyeballs and squeaky voices that we had seen somebody, so she took us to see Mrs. Yates (not her real name). As my mother had deduced, the “body” was “Mr.” Yates and he hadn’t fallen from an airplane… he had “fell” out of a whisky bottle. Apparently, my friend’s screams (Look!… I’m telling this story!) had revived him and he staggered home to sleep it off.
So now, when I see the smiling faces of the kids at the City’s Recreation Center or the Bonita YMCA, I am reminded that although the times have changed, kids have not. Yes, they need to laugh and have fun, but they also still need a challenge… an adventure and if we all don’t work together to provide them with some good ones, it should come as no surprise when we don’t like the ones they get into by themselves.