I grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut. Back in the ’50s and ’60s of my childhood, it was a mix of affluent and working-class families. Our neighborhood was comprised of young families and retirees, a small grocery store, a bar and grill with the best pizza, a gas station and a few other small businesses. Half a mile away was a public park. Lots of open space with several ponds separated by interconnecting roads.

My brother, sister and I had the most incredible amount of freedom any kid could ever want. We rode our bikes down to the park and spent the day on our own, returning home at noon to wolf down sandwiches. After lunch, Mom sent us on our way with a reminder to return by 4:30 to get ready for supper. In the summer, we fished in the small ponds for sunfish and carp with blobs of Wonder Bread or worms as bait. We horsed around with other kids from our neighborhood, exploring “caves” that were nothing more than an assortment of huge boulders resting at odd angles against each other. In the winter, we dragged sleds, coasters and skates to the park for sledding and skating for hours on end, never really minding the cold.

Although we were free to run amok without a care in the world, Mom had admonished us with this chilling warning: “Remember, no matter where you go in this town, someone will know either me or your father. So behave yourselves or we’ll hear about it.”

Frequently at the end of a summer day, we stopped at a huge weeping willow tree set back from one of the ponds. It looked like it was 50 feet tall to us. Its large main trunk had split and grown into three separate large branches. We scrambled up the tree, and my brother, sister and I each claimed our own branch. Our imaginations turned those branches into horses that we rode on adventures into the unknown. We gazed out over the shimmering water watching the ducks fly in and land to forage for food. Silence was interrupted only by the willow’s slender branches and leaves moving in time with the rhythm of the warm breeze. Lost in our own thoughts, we enjoyed our last few moments of freedom.

G.B. Shaw famously lamented that youth is wasted on the young. I have to disagree. I remember those days of freedom I had as a kid. Days spent riding my bike as fast as I dared. Days spent laughing in the sun with neighborhood kids. Days spent daydreaming in a willow tree. Days when I was old enough to be a little independent but young enough to not yet know the ups and downs of adult life. Days of memories that still make me smile appreciatively today.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: