One of my fondest memories is something that would probably appall most parents in
today’s world. Even myself. But when I was around 10 years
old, during the summers when my single mom was working, my
older brother and I would be home alone for the day. To alleviate
boredom, Benjie and I would pack some snacks, towels and an AM
transistor radio, walk three long blocks down to Pico Boulevard and for only a
quarter each, hop on the blue Santa Monica bus and take the 30-minute ride down to the
beach. By ourselves.
We would spend the entire day walking around the pier, playing in the ocean, hanging in the
sun. Looking back from a grown-up parent perspective, this now seems so wrong for so
many reasons. This was Los Angeles. A 10- and 13-year-old taking the bus by ourselves; at
the beach around a bunch of strangers and freaks; playing in the dangerous ocean; exposing
ourselves to hours of damaging sun rays; no cell phones to call anyone in case of emergencies.
Basically, with just a quarter in the morning and the expectation we’d be home before
dark, we’d be off on our own.
Even in the distant recesses of my mind, though, I don’t ever recall feeling unsafe, or sensing
any type of danger from freaks, drowning or skin cancer. We just went. We were resourceful
with our time for lack of a better term. There was no cable TV, no computers, no internet.
Just AM radio, neighbor’s yards, a selection of balls and board games. It’s crazy to think about
how simple life was for us as kids during that time.
What can I say here that so many of us grown-ups stuck on nostalgia don’t already think
to ourselves … where the heck has time gone? How did things get so complicated? Do
our kids have a fraction of the innocence, resourcefulness, creativity or imagination we
had when it comes to being with themselves, with nothing but a clear slate of time before
them? Sometimes I wish I could go back. I wish I had the unknowingness and naiveté that
I could give my kids a quarter in the morning and say, “Have fun at the beach today … ”
But at mid-life, we’ve seen, heard and learned too much of life’s crazy mix of lessons. It’s
fair to say that at this juncture in our lives, and through the love and hope of our children,
we’re at least smart enough to know what we choose to remember and what we choose
to innocently forget.