People who were born during the 1980’s, before the era of computers, cell-phones, and other high-tech gadgets spent a great portion of their childhoods outdoors. A typical scene of my childhood during the 1990’s provides an example of this.
SCENE IN MY HEAD #1
Tiny maroon and bronze leaves dance in the brisk October air. In the wide, powder-blue sky, the early-afternoon sun dazzles above Longbrook Playground and illuminates the large, colorful trees, the blurry red-and-white sign on the fence, the birds and squirrels, the glossy picnic tables, the multicolored blankets on the ground, insects scribbling in the air, and a fuzzy image of yellow-green grass. Some children swing on swings while their little hands grip the link-chains and their feet kick like scissors in the cool air. Others chase one another in dizzy circles, dive into mounds of tarnished leaves, or clap their hands together as their mouths move in unison and their heads bob up and down to their own rhythms, their hair blowing in their faces. Faint sounds of their shouts and laughter echo in the distance, as do the common barks of dogs. From a distance, the shades of their clothes form a youthful blur of primary colors—red, blue, yellow, and the occasional green.
The sun shines on the silver park fence and the red-lettered sign that reads, “Longbrook Playground OPEN DAWN TILL DUSK.” About five feet to the left of the sign, pony-tailed triplet teenage girls in windbreaker jackets and blue jeans rummage through a medium-sized bucket and lift their bottles to their mouths on their blue-and-white blanket. Nearby, a gray squirrel with a dark streak down its back runs up a thick-limbed oak tree as a red-breasted robin flutters overhead. On the right, a slender, auburn-haired woman in a thick, banana colored blouse, high-waist slacks, and flat white sneakers holds a copy of magazine in one hand as she waves the other in the air to flick a wasp out of her way. Two feet ahead, three seven or eight-year-old boys in sweatpants and hooded jackets chase after one another while one shouts, “You’re it!” Shouts of laughter fill the air when one child’s shoelace comes undone and causes him to fall on the grass. On the other side of the oak tree, two girls in overalls about twelve years old sing “Miss Mary Mack” and slap their hands together as their hair blows in the wind. All of these noises echo through the park and cause two nearby German Shepherds to bark incessantly.
From a closer view, the sun shines on the graffiti, the stuck-on gum, and the cracked leg of one of the pinewood picnic tables. The dirty-blond haired triplets dig into their bucket that reads, “Popeye’s,” and search for a chicken leg. The one wearing big, colored plastic sunglasses pulls out the last leg and munches it dramatically in her sister’s face while crumbs fall on their thick, blue-and-white- gingham blanket. The grease from the chicken trickles down her chin as she jokes, “I think I got the last leg!” One triplet, with triangle earrings and a peace-sign necklace scoffs at her sister and stares into the empty paper bucket while the other one, with chipped red nail polish and plastic bangle bracelets, guzzles her bottle of diet Coke. On the nearby bench, the auburn-haired woman turns the pages of her Ladies Home Journal magazine. As she lowers her face to tear out a recipe for spinach quiche, the autumn sun shines on her gray roots, crow’s feet, and mole on her left cheek. The wind blows the torn-out page from her hand and she catches it under one of her rubber-soled Keds. She places it into her personalized corduroy knapsack that reads “B. Perkins” in cursive.
From another angle, the boy who fell during tag ties his high-tops and stands on the dewy, muddy grass, a big mud stain clearly visible on his behind. As he walks over to his friend, leaves and woodchips crunch under his feet and his bangs blow in his eyes as he yells, “Hey, Bobby! Hey Jimmy! Wait up!” Around the bend, the sound of the girls in overalls playing their hand-games becomes louder. Not far from them, three teenage boys in plaid pants and two younger girls in oversized New Kids on the Block tee-shirts and pink spandex pants tucked into their thick socks grip the rusty swing handles. Straight ahead, three toddlers continue to jump into a bundle of maroon, gold, and bronze leaves, their Ninja Turtle hats and light-up LA Gear shoes buried somewhere at the bottom of the pile. The German Shepherds, whose tags both state “Return to Barbara Perkins, 100 Summer Road,” continue to bark, their pink and black tongues visible under their yellowy fangs.
SCENE IN MY HEAD #2:
Close-up: A middle-aged, blond haired man wearing aviator-like glasses, a mint green polo shirt, and khaki pleated slacks walks down Park Avenue as he carries his New York Times in one hand and leather attaché case in another. He pauses for a second and looks at the corner of his newspaper, which reads, “Sunday, September 23, 1995.”
Middle Shot: The morning sky widens overhead as the sun begins to rise behind the man, forming a shadow of his tall, slender physique. Tall buildings and storefronts become part of the picture as he walks forth. As the nearby clock tower on the corner of Park and East 73rd chimes for eight o’clock, other people in skirts and suits power-walk with their briefcases and Green Mountain coffee cups. A few taxicabs honk and pedestrians struggle to make their way through the growing crowd.
Long Shot: The sky widens as the scene of buildings, storefronts, cars, and people on their way to work becomes longer. Each individual car contributes to a mile-long line of traffic—a blur of sports-cars, SUV’s, vans, buses, and taxis in the distance. From afar, people and vehicles become moving specks and toy cars.