Free Range Kids
I was driving home from the studio. I was on the Highway, 1804, north. It was just starting to get dark. I always look for deer, so was scouting the ditches. Over to the left, I saw something that was so weird. I actually thought I was seeing things. I have never seen anything like it this close to town. There was a line of horses. Six or eight, beautiful browns and a few blacks. They were running full blast towards the road, coming from the east. All of a sudden I saw brake lights ahead of me. I was wondering if they horses were just going to keep running. I knew there was a fence at one of the houses, but it was hard to tell if they were behind the fence or in between some properties. All of a sudden they all just skidded to a stop at the fence. I slowed way down and as I drove by I could see the steamy breath coming out of their noses. I wish I would have been closer. I wish I could have heard them. Powerful, magnificent and beautiful creatures. Caged creatures. Wanting to be free creatures. I wonder where they would have run. I wonder how far they would have gone. I wonder if they felt trapped.
In our own lives what cages do we put around ourselves. What cages do others put around us. Do we feel trapped. Do we feel like we just want to run sometimes and just keep running, not knowing where we will end up.
Do you feel like you do things just because it’s the safe thing to do. The uncomplicated thing to do. The normal thing to do.
I started thinking about my life as a kid and how free we were to roam. Free range kids for sure. No cages. No fences. We played outside every single day, no matter the weather. We just had to come in when it was dark. Life was so simple back then. Nothing too complicated, luckily.
Today when I left my day job, I decided to drive through the alleys of the Euclid house, the Central house and the Prospect house. The houses I grew up in. The houses that hold so many memories.
I started with the Euclid house, since it was closest. I stopped in the alley when I got behind the house and looked into the yard. I could see us playing outside as kids. White blond hair and tan skin. I never understood why I couldn’t be like my brother and not wear a shirt. I didn’t get it. I could see the back step where I learned to do double jumps. It looked so small though. I could see the upstairs apartment door. The one my sister, Sherry, the fire starter, locked and then got chased down the alley by dad for doing it. It was not our apartment. Gravel and barefoot were a good choice for Sherry. He couldn’t catch her.
Next I went through the alley at the Central house. Again, everything looked so small. The yard that once seemed huge was not very big at all. I could see myself playing in the garage, reaching up for the Coke bottle that was filled with oil. That was not a good day. In case anyone was wondering, oil does not taste one bit like Coke. I could see the neighbor lady, who we swore was a witch. She was an old German woman with a thick German accent. If she could speak English at all, I don’t think we knew it. She had a pear tree. We decided to pick some. She was nowhere around. As soon as we picked a pear, she appeared at the tree. We never picked her pears again. I could see me running to Schrock’s house to beat to death the 45 record, Last Kiss. The label on the record was tan and orange. I bet we played it over 500 times. Not even kidding. I still love that song. Pearl Jam’s version is the best, in my opinion.
I then went to the Prospect house. That alley leads to the Zesto, the state-famous ice cream place. The house looked pretty sad and rugged. It definitely needs some TLC. I could see myself running up the alley. Dad was out watering the grass. He asked how I did. It was 4th grade. It was the jump rope contest. I remember telling him I didn’t do very well and then pulled out the championship blue ribbon from behind my back to show him. I think he was proud.
I am so grateful that we had so many fun times and got to play outside all the time. I’m grateful we didn’t have strict rules. I’m grateful we could roam and wander. I’m grateful we were given those freedoms to explore our childhood. I’m grateful we didn’t feel trapped. I’m grateful we were free.