I have a very difficult time relating to kids. My childhood was so vastly different from theirs in just about every way imaginable, it isn’t funny. No high tech toys, just TV, telephone and radio. I grew up in northeastern Ohio in a very small town, or rather township of Burton Ohio, in Geauga County.
Initially, in the first house my father built, a small two bedroom affair on State Road 87, Kingsman Road. Lived there until I was six years old and we had two brothers younger than me. I was the oldest, first born. My father then bought land on Butternut Road not far from there and built a much larger place on three acres of land. Nearly all of it wooded, most heavily so. The road was a dirt road at the time and had very little traffic. The parcel was but a small part of a larger wooded area that went back for another 5 to 10 acres. On one side was a field that later became a dirt parking lot to a small golf coarse the son of the original owner of all the land there put in.
The original lands was part of one or two farms and an old coal mine, the entry to and ventilation hole for which you still find today. As we got older, my siblings and I had pretty much free rein of the woods, and except in the winter, it was the area of choice for whatever fun we chose to have – with small springs, run-off gullies, trees, fields…you name it. My rural education came from there, along with having friends that lived on farms – some worked regularly, some not. Barns and silos and farm animals of all sorts. Pigs and goats and chickens and cows and .. We even had loan of two goats from some friends for awhile, which I loved.
My city education came from visiting my cousins who lived on the west side of Cleveland at West 84 street and Denison, in a very blue collar neighborhood, all the houses built in the 1920s, two-story type. My cousin Matt and I would travel on bikes all around the west side, sometimes driving my grandmother to distraction – she lived there as well.
Conversely, they would come out to our place in the summer for a few weeks, and also on the weekends when my aunt and uncle would work on a house in Burton they owned and rented out. Once when I was around 10, my father bought a Chevy Microbus and we began camping across Pennsylvania in the state parks on our way to visit my grandparents who lived outside of Philadelphia. One year my cousin Matt came with us as well.
All this came to an end in the fall of 1963 when my father decided to move the family down to Florida, eventually choosing Coral Gables. While waiting for the real estate agent to sign on a house, my father had a brain hemorrhage and died. After getting the estate settled and living with my grandparents outside Philly, my mother moved us to Naples, Florida, which at that time was not much bigger than Burton Ohio.
Now where is this all leading? And how does it all relate to today’s kids?
I often go the the various Cleveland Metro Parks reservation to hike a bit and take pictures, like I did today. I often see parents with kids by the hand and strollers and – like today – some on a field trip, today’s group from a summer camp up in Mentor, Ohio.
Most here know me as a geek from previous diaries, but when I was young, and even now, the geeky radio and electronics was primarily a winter thing. Summer was outside in the woods. There were no parents or grownups around. Nobody to make sure we did not fall into the pond and drown; f we got bit or fell out of a tree; if we survived [and I know of no one who did not] we got talked to [chewed out] for being such a dumb ass. It was a learning experience. So when I see kids being hand-held through their exposure to nature, I feel sorry for them and afraid for them. They likely will not experience nature in the raw, like I did.
As a child I was very very fortunate in this. I appreciate nature and respect nature and am very comfortable with nature. Most of those like me and of my generation were not protected from the world, but encouraged to explore it; not to see the world only as something to satiate out insatiable appetites.
I feel sad about kids today.