So we’ve arrived at our new place. In a word – unbelievable.
We’ve had the keys to our new house for less than a week, and I’m already having bad dreams about having to move away from here. “Here” is a neighborhood aboard West Point, NY. It is a quiet, quarter-mile loop, with a playground in the center. Just seconds ago, I loaded up one of our neighborhood five-year-olds with a handful of popsicles, so he could deliver them to a group of kids now playing somewhere in the woods, or on the sloping rock formation in our backyard, or in someone else’s yard. I don’t really know where they are at this moment, but my two kids (6 and 5) are among them…and they don’t have any grown-ups with them. The popsicles will find their way, I’m sure. Just as the kids will find their way home. As I write these words, in fact, the gang just piled through my sliding glass door; six total, all sucking on popsicles. Ages four-and-a-half to eight; three sets of brothers and sisters. I haven’t seen any of their parents since yesterday, and don’t plan on seeing them today. Just the kids. They are simply Free-ranging, as if we’ve somehow been beamed back to the 70’s. They’re moving through the neighborhood (and my kitchen) like a pack of happy wolves, and it’s truly inspiring. In the last 24 hours, I have dispensed grapes, apples, oranges, crackers, juice boxes, yogurt, bananas, mango, granola bars, and some stuff I’m forgetting. I’ve also applied neosporine and band aids to several kids who are not my own. No big deals, no freak-shows. It’s simply amazing. There is another pack of slightly older boys, 10-12 year-olds, who seemingly occupy the top of the neighborhood food chain. They are the “big kids”, and they are the only ones who can perform backwards flips off the swings, and land on their feet. I don’t see their parents much either. My 6-year-old has tried the flip, but he keeps landing on something other than his feet.
My children have never seemed happier than they are right now; I’m not kidding. In the space of a week, they have been transported from a land of deserted neighborhoods and hit-and-miss play dates, to a land of autonomous adventure, parent-free games, and kids awake after dark chasing fireflies (also with no parents). I’ll freely admit that I’ve shed a few tears of joy over the entire thing. We have arrived.
Time warp forward an hour – I just wrapped up a hot dog and watermelon buffet for six, and the pack is off again. 🙂 This is just amazing.
So, the implications are HUGE here. My wife has a one-year contract as a professor at West Point…how can we extend? How can we stay here? There must be a way. Our initial plan was to return to Michigan after a year. That was before we discovered this. The thought of returning to empty neighborhoods makes me shudder. I’ll try to post regularly with updates.
Go love your kids!