The Street

“I’ll be back for lunch!”

I had to call my kids in off the street, the two eldest, ages six and eight.

The dots are pause for reflection.

It’s not easy to let children play in the streets of Buenos Aires where we live. This episode happened in Pinamar during the winter holidays. Pinamar is a coastal town in Argentina where we lived for two years – and where we go every chance we get. There it’s possible to play in the street. It’s more than possible. The kids come and knock on the door or just hop over the fence and come into the back garden to ask if the kids can come out and play. Off they go with bikes and soccer balls to play on the sandy street where few cars pass, a gang of them from our little neighborhood in a coastal pine forest. Up the street they run, up they ride, up they hoot, up they go laughing and racing and falling, all in a world where sometime after my youth in the 70s and 80s the street was deemed too dangerous and educationally valueless for kids, and life was moved indoors where PlayStations and Wiis and plain old televisions provide safer entertainment.

I like the street.

I called the kids in at dusk.

One went to a friend’s house down the street; the other helped me light the barbeque.

Then I remembered the street of my old haunt in Los Angeles, the excitement of it all. We rode Big Wheels, Choppers and then skateboards. The streets were ours, so too the spaces between the houses. We hopped fences and wound our ways through the paths of apartment buildings as shortcuts. We explored the open space at the top of the neighborhood – it was a small field for tossing stones and watching the traffic on the 405 freeway buzz by, all before the Department of Water and Power erected a building in our field that to this day looks like an old man’s dentures.

We skated, raced and ran. We pretended to fight to get the cars to stop and hapless mothers frantically say, “That’s enough, boys,” and we’d run off and play football, baseball and basketball. Or just sit on a wall and talk about life.

There wasn’t much better.

So when my eldest daughter came home and asked if she could ride in the street tomorrow, I said, “Nothing better.”

She smiled.

I did too.

Then I thought, this should happen everywhere.

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