I am still waiting for the hip to mend, and saw the doc yesterday for an update. The good news is that the x-rays show that there is definitely some bone growth along the fracture line, but not enough that I can put weight onto it yet. What surprised me was that he showed me the actual break on the films – I had looked at them myself earlier, and thought it was about an inch and half long along the top of the femur, but he traced a break along the length of the bone that is actually 4-5 inches in length. No wonder this thing hurts so much!
I’ve had some good time to catch up on my reading lately, and have been thinking more about “Last Child in the Woods” and my own childhood, and how it relates to the book versus how my own children live now.
Up until I was in high school, my father was in the Air Force, and we moved every 18 months or so…while I suspect most people would say today that that is detrimental to a proper childhood, I loved it, and I believe it has shaped me in many ways that are actually good. For one, I am at ease in new places, and love to travel. When my job required that I travel internationally, I was always told by my customers that they could tell how much I respected their cultures, and found that I was easy to work with compared to many Americans they knew. But as it relates to my love for the outdoors, I think the stage was set early on as well.
When I was only 4 years old, my family moved to Izmir, Turkey for three years. While there, we spent much time with other assigned NATO families, and nearly every weekend went and explored the countryside. We would walk thru the ruins of Ephesus, one of Alexander’s many fortresses, and other ancient ruins. My mother would pack enough food for a small army, and we would go to the sea to play and explore – even at that age, I recall being given enough of a leash that I wasn’t always attached to my parents apron-strings.
What really stands out in my memory is the time we lived in Tripoli, Libya (I was 7 then) – while we did live on the military base, I was free to go out with my friends and do things I would never consider allowing my kids to do. For example, at that age I would take the bus to the center of the base to go to the movies with my friends – but even more, I remember exploring some abandoned buildings and scavenging supplies for the tree houses we built in each of our yards (such as they were!). I distinctly recall finding wires for lashing, scraps of wood, and more bent nails than we could ever straighten against the sidewalk. We’d drag our finds back to the housing area, and haul it up the olive trees in our yards, and build our own place to get away. When it was hot (and it’s nearly always hot in Libya) we’d retreat up there to read our comic books and stay out of the sun. We’d also be able to catch chameleons (the real ones with the googly eyes, not the Florida kind) and try to train them to race each other, which, as I recall, rarely worked without me getting a bite or two.
As I grew up after that, we moved first to southern California, then to Globe, Arizona, and then to Lubbock, Texas. In each of these places I can remember spending every afternoon outside, roaming the neighborhoods, fields and canyons at will, as long as I was home in time for supper. While the book “Last Child in the Woods” falls short in prescribing actual solutions, it does at least make me recall how I grew up, and what I would wish for my own children, should society allow it. Alas – too many crazies, too many germs, too much homework from school, and not enough real neighbors watching out for each other prevent this lifestyle from happening now.
And so I do what I can to take the kids outside whenever we can (and I’ll be able to again eventually when this damned hip heals), but I think going forward I plan to allow them some more time to discover on their terms, and not mine. We spend quite a bit of our warm weather weekends hiking in the Finger Lakes, and this year I will give them a longer leash, and forget so much about making time, but will make it a better time. We’ll see how it goes – and as we get cranked up again, I’ll be sure to update here on our journeys, both on the trail, and back in time.
I wanted to add at the end here that when I was younger and out playing, I used to come home filthy – dirty, muddy and just plain messy. Never once do I remember getting in trouble for being dirty – in fact, I think it was understood by my parents that I was just “being a kid” – I thank them both for that, and hope to do the same for my kids. Dirty? So what! It’ll wash off – that’s why they take showers!