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Remembering when kids were kings of the road…

July 30, 2013

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When I was my daughter’s age

by Bree Ervin

When I was nine…

I used to ride my bike – for miles. Across the railroad tracks, over the sidewalks, down stairs, along busy roads, next to the creek – across the creek, on rickety bridges and under underpasses.

I used to hang out in front of the movie theater and look for grown-ups who looked “cool” enough to help me buy tickets to the R-rated summer blockbusters.

I used to go to the swimming pool. All by myself. With money in my pocket for the entrance fee – and enough junk food to make me sink to the bottom.

When I was nine…

I used to get up early on summer mornings, poach an egg for my toast, pack myself a lunch, grab my backpack filled with MacGyver essentials – duct tape, pocket knife, string – and disappear for hours.

I used to hike up mountains on my own, following deer trails, hunting for mountain lions, fishing in the river, exploring mines…

I used to never tell anyone where I was going, not because it was a secret, but because I didn’t know – I was an explorer, going where ever curiosity took me.

When I was nine…

Harriet the Spy was my heroine.

Bridge to Terabithia was my inspiration.

The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was my aspiration.

When I was nine…

I climbed trees all the way to the top, feeling them bend under me while we swayed in the wind together.

I climbed rocks without a rope, or a spot, or a friend to call for help if I fell. I didn’t fall.

I climbed to the top of my dreams and slid down the other side, laughing at each new victory, heart pounding as I remembered close calls, thanking the odds I’d survived another adventure!

When I was nine…

I used to save my allowance and spend it at the gas station on candy and soda and Mad Magazine.

I used to strike up conversations with any stranger willing to talk to a kid.

I used to collect the strangest things, walking along the rail road tracks, down alleys, and diving into dumpsters to look for treasure.

When I was nine…

I knew all my neighbors by name, and car, and whether they liked me or my dog better.

I knew that if I got lost in the mountains, I should go downhill. Find a river, follow it down. Find people – any people – and they’d help me.

I knew to trust my gut if I got lost in town. I knew most people, even the ones who didn’t like kids, would help me if I needed it.

When I was nine…

I trusted that the world was basically a good and safe place, that people were basically kind, that the odds were good I’d come out alive.

It was true.

It still is.


Remembering when kids were kings of the road.”

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