A few weeks ago, at my mothers’ group, I attended a talk given by Mike Lanza of the Playborhood.com blog. Mike is advocating bringing back the neighborhoods of our childhood where kids felt free to roam and play to their heart’s content.
I have to admit that we’re utter slackers as neighbors. We’ve been in our house for eight years and we hardly know anyone. To be fair, back when we moved in, we were the youngest on the block, by far. Nowadays though we have little excuse. The neighborhood is getting younger by the day and still, we stay behind our doors.
As Mike talked I remembered my time in Rye, NY. 7-years-old and free as a bird. We roamed the ‘hood with all the kids on the street, bouncing from one yard to the next, exploring, playing, and just being kids.
I biked on the road, fell into ponds, snuck into the country club pool.
I even distinctly remember walking to school by myself. I couldn’t have been older than 8 or 9 since we moved away the summer I turned 10.
I’ll never forget that feeling of freedom and possibility that filled me every morning when I jumped out of bed.
Until a year or so ago we used to let our kids sit outside and play with chalk on the front walk. I figured that as long as I could hear them play they were safe. (We live in a very safe neighborhood.) Then, one day, while I was out there with them, a woman jogging by — a total and utter stranger — stopped to say hi to the girls and addressed them by name.
It freaked me out and for the longest time I didn’t let the kids out to play in the front any more.
Well, influenced by Mike and our desires to get out into the community more, we’re taking back our front yard starting with a slightly unconventional invitation.
We live on a corner lot with a lot of sidewalk space. M came up with the idea and I bought the chalk.
The girls drew the first pictures.
And we invited people to add their own.
And then we stepped back and waited.
They didn’t disappoint. Every day since we’ve woken up or come home to new messages, new drawings. It makes us smile and then we go out to play and invite people to stop and play with us.
It’s not quite the playborhood of my childhood yet, but it’s a step closer than it was last month. And this Halloween we’re handing out candy and chalk, with a little note inviting them to come use it with us.
Our lawn might not be the most manicured. Our house might have a bit of chipped paint and broken screens. But our sidewalks are the most beautiful in the neighborhood.