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Where Are The Children?

written by: Dianne Moritz

 

It's a warm, sunny, beautiful spring day. The golden yellow forsythias are in full bloom, green buds burst on
hydrangeas and hedgerow, and red-breasted robins are bop, bop, bobbin' along, getting fat from feasting on worms.
Where are the children?
It’s five o'clock in the afternoon, school let out hours ago, but all is quiet outside my door. Other than the distant whispers of traffic, my street is empty. No kids chasing. No bikes racing. No basketballs thumping or skateboards bumping.
Where are the children?
After a long winter, huddled in my house like an old bear, I am eager to be outside in the sunshine. I pluck a few weeds, chase my kitty, trek through the brambly, over-grown back yard to sit on the warm wood of the dock anchored over Alewlfe's Creek to watch fish and snowy egrets.
Where are the children?
When I was a kid, we couldn't wait to get home from school, stash our books, grab a sweater, and rush outdoors to play in the late afternoon sunshine.
We'd jump-rope... jump, jump, jump, while chanting "Cinderella dressed in yella, went downstairs to kiss a fella;" Or "Teddybear, teddybear turn around. Teddybear, teddybear touch the ground."
We'd take a pile of jacks and a tiny ball to play out on our smooth, cement breezeway, the best spot, where we wouldn't scrape our knuckles and the ball bounced just right.
Some afternoons, we'd clamp metal roller skates over our shoes and skate up and down bumpy sidewalks, then chase each other all the way down the block to Sweeny's corner drug-store, clomp to the counter, plunk down buffalo nickels, and slurp ice-cold, cherry Cokes.
Other days we’d grab a stick and etch a hop-scotch board in the dusty driveway for endless games. Or take out our beat-up, second-hand bikes and speed off down the street, hair flying free, sun kissing our rosy cheeks.
But the best out-door adventures were on week-ends. We'd play Cowboys and Indians with the neighbor kids, race across our adjoining lawns "shooting" and "maiming" each other with toy cap guns, then hide-out, behind old sheds lining the allies, to ambush our enemies. Sometimes, we'd get our rusty, red wagon, put the younger kids in and pull our "wagon-train" way out west, all around the whole square block.
Where are the children?
One Saturday we were inspired to build a homestead.
We'd been running in and out of the house all day and by mid-afternoon Mother was irritated. I imagined outfitting a bathroom out back, nestled among a bunch of fruit trees. So, we carted a bucket up from the basement, pilfered a couple of tattered sheets from the linen closet, and got to work. We hung the sheets as a small enclosure, filled the bucket with water, and lugged it inside. Voila! The days of dashing in and out annoying Mother were over.
That night Dad got a phone call. The little tattle-tale next door told her mom, who told my dad. The woman threatened to call the Health Department if our out-house wasn’t dismantled immediately. So, with dad supervising, I dumped the contents of the bucket down the sewer, hosed it off, and set it in the garage to dry.
Undaunted, the next day we were on to other, exciting exploits.
Where are the children?
Our elementary school, Harriet Beecher Stowe, was perched on a hill, four houses down from our house (long before chain-link fences and no trespassing signs barred kids from school grounds after hours).
One blue-sky Saturday, we wandered up to the playground. Soon tiring of the monkey bars, we decided to explore the far side of the building. A grove of trees grew tall from the neighboring yard, grazing the tops of the school’s second floor windows. My best friend, Judy, noticed some vines tangled in the branches and dangling within reach. Suddenly, she snatched one and swung out into thin air. "Me Tarzan! You Jane!" she shouted. Soon everyone seized a vine and we played Apemen for hours, until our moms called us home for supper.
Back from my pleasant reverie, I marvel at the hushed silence of my surroundings.
Where are the children?

Dianne Moritz

Dianne Moritz

Dianne taught grades K-3 in Los Angeles for many years. She now writes poetry and picture books for kids. Her latest, HEY, LITTLE BEACHCOMBER, was released in Nov. 2019 from Big Belly Book Co. She is a frequent contributor to the Highlights magazines.
Dianne Moritz

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