June 11, 1996
July 1994 was the year of the World Cup at Stanford, California. I participated as a spectator at every game, taking along with me several members of a youth team I coach. One thing, other than the teams, the scores, or the spectators, that was surreal, was the journey to and from the stadium. To get from my home to the stadium and back I chose to ride bikes, much to the dismay of my young players, who accompanied me, young teens and much too cool to be seen traveling in anything other than a car. The journey took us through three different types of socio-economic communities. The first community that we traveled was my own, a community in economic transition. Let's just say its reputation was not the best in the past. Here there were visible signs of life, people out and about, children playing in their yards and in the street. This being a weekday in the middle of summer, nothing out of the usual, in fact reassuring. That is until we reached the next community, with its very imposing ivy cover walls, shading Oaks, over lush well mowed lawns, that surrounded palatial homes of the, should be known. No sign of life other than the birds and squirrels. I took the time on some of the trips to look, better yet peek, wherever I could, just to see if there were any signs of children playing around any of these wonderful fairy tail homes, not to say there were no children period, just not any visible or that could be heard, on so many warm summer days, that we past by. The same was true of the next community we passed through before the stadium, not a child was seen. Broad, tree lined streets, perfect lawns bordered by flowers, surrounding well taken care of homes. Picture perfect, but not one child, none lazing under a tree, playing tag, or cooling off with the water hose.
Its been two years since that summer, and I have passed through those two communities many times with the same strange, silent absence of children each time. Of course I see children pass by in cars, possibly passing through, or coming from, one of these picture perfect homes, from any one of the tree line streets with lush lawns.
I remember living in similar communities to those as a child, playing with my friends all over our neighborhood. The street was for a ball game, until half the team was lost to the diner bell. After sunset, kick the can or capture the flag would go on until we could plead no more, for five minutes more. Lawns were for water fights until someone got hurt, or playing board games in the shade if it was too hot. My neighborhood then and those neighborhoods now, were perfect for kids and fondly remembered by me. There may be many reasons why, I do not know where the children play, but as I pass through, those empty streets, I fondly recall the past and sadly see today.
Copyright © 1996, Frank Wycoff.