It’s August. Summer has been in full swing for 2 months now. The school year is rapidly creeping up as the heat peaks and the days grow just slightly shorter with each sunset. So where are all the children?
I bought a bike about a month ago. The first honest to goodness bike I’ve had in a long time. It’s a Jamis Nova Sport cyclocross bike. For the uninitiated, Cyclocross, or CX is a type of cycling that involves on-road & off-road riding. It uses a hybrid bike that is loosely a cross between a mountain bike and a road bike. I went hybrid so I could do some riding around the neighborhood and the ranch roads/tank trails that surround Fort Hood.
In just about a month I’ve rode this bike on construction sites, ranch roads, city streets, neighborhood roads, and even a few open fields. A lot of it reminds me of my youth living in places like Wichita, KS and Belton, MO. There is a certain freedom to it. Nothing to worry about. No bills, no work, no worries…just the ride. In fact, it is a pretty solitary hobby. Which bothered me for the first time today.
Where are the kids? By all rights I should be shaking my fist at large packs of ruffians on bikes tearing through the same areas I’m cruising as I try my middle-aged best not to fall over. In reality, these kids are missing. They’ve been missing all summer. I know they’re here. Their buses clog up my morning commute throughout the school year but right now it’s all quiet. If Dr. Who showed up right now to investigate the alien presence that has kidnapped all the children in town it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
I guess 700 channels of cable, Xbox 360’s, and endless access to internet entertainment has replaced countless hours being lost on a bike or playing tag or shoving firecrackers into ant hills. I won’t pass judgement on the childhoods these kids are having. To them it might seem totally normal and just as fulfilling as anything I experienced as a young boy. I won’t pass judgement on their childhoods or their parents but I will lament their absence on the trails and construction sites and sidewalks and streets as I ride.
I lament their absence because I know that no amount of Hollywood digital effects or video game A.I. can ever really replicate the feeling of exhilaration that comes with jumping dirt hills, getting totally lost but finding your way back to a main road on your own, or conquering “suicide hill” (or any equally scary 15% decline). These are the things my childhood was made of and I lament the fact that many of these kids will equate beating another level on candy crush with the real accomplishment that comes with pushing pedals, hiking a stream, or just generally taking a second to explore and conquer the world around them. I won’t judge but I will lament.