We do not live in a fancy neighborhood. A lot of our neighbors moved out hastily during the recession, abandoning their homes and their mortgages. There are a few folks here who drive BMWs, but there are a lot more who drive aging minivans. It's a nice neighborhood, with nice big yards and natural stone on every single house. Yes, a lot of the houses are structurally identical, but most of us have gone to great lengths to make our houses in to homes that reflect our individual tastes.
Our house is directly across the street from the neighborhood park. There's a playground with some swings and other structures, a pavilion with sturdy picnic tables, and - most pertinent to this post - a very, very large and well-maintained field.
The weather has been fabulous this weekend, with temperatures near 60 and very little wind. Yesterday, Rob and Wilson headed out to the backyard to toss the baseball around. As always happens, a ball went over the fence and into the open space that affords a full view of the park. Going out there to retrieve the ball, Wilson spotted one of his classmates playing at the playground. The game of catch was hastily abandoned in favor of playing with Tyler, who is one of Wilson's best friends. He ran through the house and out the front door to join Tyler and his mom. Rob followed, and Anna wanted to go, too. Before I could get my shoes on, the whole family was over there. Alas, Tyler was only passing through the park and had to get back home after about 10 minutes. As he was leaving, Wilson spotted a couple other good friends, Damion and Rudy, on the way to the park with their dad, Jeff, and a football. Rudy saw Wilson, did the math, and ran back down the street to get a fourth kid, Nathan, so that the teams would be even. Rudy, Nathan, Damion and Wilson got heavily involved in a football game while Rob talked to Jeff and I attended to Anna at the playground. Another girl from the neighborhood, uninterested in football, came and played with us, too.
While we were at the playground, two other kids - a brother and sister - showed up. The brother always rides to school with the above-mentioned Nathan and he seems like a sports-type kid, so I pointed out the football game across the park. He said "sweet" and took off running to join the game. To my surprise, his sister went, too.
A few minutes later, some of our friends from up the path, a dad and his sons, showed up and rode their bikes around the park with Anna and Audrey. Then a few other kids showed up and joined the football game. On the field, there was tackling, laughter, and a tremendous amount of fun had as those kids rolled around and fought over the football. Back at the park, we were cheetahs and pirates, we rode the swings to the moon and sold wood chip ice cream for wood chip money.
It's January. There's still snow on the ground in places. The field is brown and there are ice chunks mixed in with the wood chips at the playground. Every one of those kids at the park has a TV at home, and most of them have some sort of video game player with a zillion different virtual reality games. But once that fresh air hit their lungs and the Colorado sun hit their pale faces, they were all caught up in a world that knows no technology and changes very little from decade to decade. It is the world of unstructured, unplanned, natural play. The fact that it can happen right in front of my house on a January afternoon proves to me that even though my neighborhood might not be fancy, it is occupied by some of the wealthiest people in the world.