“Time Traveling Neighbors” by Chris Zito

We used to walk through two yards to get to Davey Boses’s house, three to get to Mike Ryan’s. Most neighborhoods now are thoroughly fenced. We’ve separated our kids.  We shuttle them around.  They play date each other.

There is no fence between our house and the one behind us, just a short retaining wall and a tiny grove of trees. When a new family moved in we quickly spotted two small bikes. Maggie and Antonio were both a little older than Vince, but they loved playing outside and they didn’t mind having a four-year old along for the ride. Vince could go out the back door to see if they wanted to come out and play. Sometimes there would be a knock on our door.  Suddenly we were back in 1972.


I would have been jealous of this bike back then.
Today I’m just jealous of all that hair.

For a twenty-first century parent to send her kid out the back door to just run around with no particular agenda is pretty much unheard of. Witnessing Vince see other kids outside, throw on his shoes, and hit the door made me feel like that kid from the Mr. Peabody cartoons! “Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for 1966!”


Sherman, did you know there was a day when
children played without constant adult supervision?

It wasn’t long before the kids became good friends/playmates and we heard “Maggie and Antonio this” and “Maggie and Antonio that” around the house all the time.  Having your child play outside instead of in the house makes you feel like a good parent. “The kid is getting exercise! He’s not watching TV! He’d pass the Presidential Fitness test at school if schools still had Phys. Ed!

Yes, there were times Vince would come home with a scrape or run in to snitch that one of them had done something terrible that kids do to each other. Most parents don’t care about the details of these events. We just want it to blow over so the kid will go outside again. Besides, as I’ve told the boy many times: nobody likes a rat. Of course sometimes there’s no need for an explanation, like when he was simply overpowered in a water gun fight.


I went out the next day and got Vince a good super soaker.
The arms race was on!

Maggie and Antonio’s dad found a job in another city within a few months of them moving in and so they moved away right after school ended. Now that the dust has settled and we’re planted firmly back in 2010 we remember Maggie and Antonio fondly.  They were good kids. They were Vince’s friends. If nothing else, their time together proved that kids can still be just kids “messing around” outside if we let them.

Thanks for reading. Tell your pals.
Chris Zito

Note: Thanks to Kenneth Kwan for the use of his wonderful photograph. You’re a generous man, Kenneth.

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5 Responses

  1. Huge loss…maybe some new friends will move in!!

  2. You could say I’m perfectly negligent for not shuttling my kids to three kinds of lessons and four play dates a week, but I prefer think of myself as “old school. 😉

  3. Never woulda made those neat smoke bombs if we were supervised….oh the fun trouble we got ourselves into….

  4. I LOVE!!!! the picture of Vince! Too Cute! I know Austin might be much older but he loves a good truck rally, dinosaur fight, space mission, or sword fight as much as the next guy. He can ring our bell any time…because as you well know my kid NEVER goes outside – RIDICULOUS!

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