Love the sound of laughter in our neighborhood. Love seeing the signs of activity and play. Kids today really do still play outside.
“Kids today…” — a phrase that usually is followed by complaints and “I remember when…” and how “Things were different and better then.”
Things were different, yes, but also the same. Kids still imagine and play — and sneak off to make their own way and own plans.
I’m thirteen to sixteen, and not driving yet. We walked. We biked. My bike was probably twenty years old– it was secondhand when I got it at age eight, and probably looked similar to this model. It was big, blue, and clunky with no gears. It was difficult to pedal, probably due to some gear/pedal ratio. My brother’s bike was newer, probably not a Schwinn, but definitely a lighter and three-speed model, much faster and easier to ride than my bike. He was three years younger and raced around the neighborhood whether he was on his bike or not!
Around the neighborhood, my bike was fine– it was flat terrain around the block and up the alley.
But as I grew older and able to go farther, those hills were tough to climb on my old bike. And if my girlfriends and I decided to go on an adventure and picnic — that required a better bike, which my brother would never offer. After all, he had places to go too.
It’s hot and humid in Bismarck in the summer– and most of the time, we walked in our swimsuits, towel wrapped around us, down to the public swimming pool about 1/2 mile away to spend the afternoon. Twenty-five cents. Almost everyday.
But then I turned into a teen-ager, and we, my friends and I, took a daring chance to bike to the river– not that we were s’pose to. “Those kids today.”
Yeah. It was not what we were allowed to do. But we knew the way — we knew the spot where teens hung out. It was about a four mile trek, out past the new Bismarck Junior College, down the steep hill to the river, and then back to the Interstate Bridge [I-94].
It was country back then– none of the housing developments existed up north once you passed Highland Acres to the west of the main road.
The bridge is the tricky part. It was the interstate, not a pedestrian bridge, but, of course, one of “those kids” discovered the cat walk underneath the bridge. And then every kid knew. Very scary.
It seemed worth the trek to reach the sandbar and backwash. The Missouri River at that time in that place ran free– it was filled with whirlpools in a fast moving current and we were not supposed to swim there. But the backwash was warm and peaceful. And that’s where we headed after hiding our bikes off to the side of river road and climbing our way onto and across the catwalk. My friends and I waited until it was just us on the catwalk under the bridge; we could trust each other. And we spent that day, one day, enjoying our daring adventure, although the start of the journey was a mess.
I knew I’d never make it back home up that river hill on my old bike. I knew my brother would not let me use his better bike. So, I took it. I took it without asking. I pulled it from the side of the house and began to push it to hop on just as my brother peeked out the door.
He bounded after me, and in my rush to get going, I scraped my shin on the fender. I cringed, but still I took off with my friends racing beside me and my brother chasing after me, yelling, “Stop it! Stop!”
I felt guilty the whole time. It’s not something I’d normally do. That scrape is a scar on my leg. It reminds me of the one day I was a “those kids today” kid. And I was “grounded” for taking my brother’s bike on an unapproved adventure. It reminds me that kids will be kids– today and back then.
What is your “Kids Today” story?
You know, we’ve all been there…
Bikes by Sheri
Maps by Google
Geeky Gramma ~~
Retired Middle School Language Arts Teacher ~~
Writer and Thinker