Yesterday, as I drove by a local park, I noticed a youngster struggling to get his colorful kite up into the blue sky. Three more kids were sitting nearby on a bench watching their friend.
But, wait a minute. They weren't watching. They were each bent over their cell phones, sending text messages. What a waste of this glorious fall day.
As I drove on, my mind took a time-capsule trip back to my own childhood many, many years ago.
With no electronic devices to distract us, my pals and I spent all our time outside exploring, running, jumping, climbing, just being kids.
The games we played required no equipment.unless you count the old can we used when kick-the-can came up. There were marathon hide 'n seek sessions, hop scotch, Red Rover, rope jumping contests.an endless collection of activities passed down from earlier generations of kids.
In my Ft. Worth neighborhood, summertime brought with it long spells of very hot days. That was the time we'd all gather on one of the neighborhood's big front porches to play Monopoly. The games could last from an afternoon to a day or two.
When my porch was the location we chose, Mom would provide us with a heaping bowl of buttered popcorn for munching. And the garden hose was always nearby if we got thirsty.
In those long ago days of childhood, there were only one or two televisions on the whole block. And adults dominated these for news and sports. From time to time, we were invited to one of the TV homes to watch something special on the small screens. Still, television didn't seem very exciting to us.
School, of course, was our major involvement in those days. But every afternoon after school and on weekends, holidays and summer vacations, our kid gang on Carleton St. spent as much time as possible in that big world outdoors.
Each day when dusk began to settle over the neighborhood and the streetlights came on, families up and down the block would notify their youngsters that supper was ready.
Every family had a special signal to call their youngest members home.
For Charlie, his Mother had developed a shrill whistle that could be heard throughout the whole area.
Martha's sister or mother would routinely call her home with "Mar-THAAA".
Robert, whose family ran on a strict schedule, knew to head for home when he saw his Dad's car turn onto Carleton St.
In my case, either Mom or my sister, Lynn, would ring the family's big cowbell to tell me it was time to head inside. The cowbell was also put to use at football games and for celebrations like New Year's Eve.
After supper, our gang would once again gather on one of the porches and tell ghost stories till we scared ourselves home for the night.
I don't know if the kids I saw in the park ever listened to ghost stories by streetlight or if they had the chance to play Monopoly on a summer afternoon.
But I suspect that today's kids are so devoted to cell phones, to texting, to social media, that they never heard of hopscotch, Red Rover or hide 'n seek.
In many ways, the children of today are smarter and much better equipped for today's world than the kids of our time would be. But I relish the childhood I had where keeping devices charged and watching out for viruses were unheard of.
I'm glad we had those years to just be kids.