While I don’t know it for a fact, I am pretty certain the original architect of our neighborhood had some sort of Poseidon complex.
The storm sewers that line our street were not designed for humans--they are so enormous that I can only guess their original purpose were as giant pool filters for the gods. They are long and un-grated--I want to put repelling cables on the kids when they go outside so they don’t get sucked in like one of Zeus’ water noodles.
Luckily, our gigantic street drains don’t eat small children (yet), but they do feast on the things children play with. Every tennis ball, baseball, football, hockey puck and basketball hoop that we own has been swallowed up by the sewer monster. This has been a nagging problem for the ten years we have lived here, and my children have become quite adept at trying to outsmart this obstacle. At first, they would try to outrun the ball before the jaws would snap it up--changing the rules of the game to prevent balls from going out of bounds. When that became impossible, they made their own bunkers by placing a series of large objects in front of the gaping holes to try to stop any more playground ball casualties. To set up a simple street hockey game would take a crew of ten, four hours and a building permit.
Today when I looked out they had a couple of old drive-in movie screens and a Stuckey’s billboard trying to prevent the monster’s repo of a hockey puck, I started thinking that I really need to have a garage sale or at least movie night for the city of Clearwater, when I saw the neighbor across the street emerge from his garage with two perfectly measured, cut and fitted pieces of plywood to fit across the drains. They are light enough to easily set up and take down at the start of every game with ease and he manufactured these not because anyone asked, but because he saw a need and generously acted upon it.
In addition to a sincere note of thanks from the boys, what is the proper thank you for a gift of this magnitude? While they might just seem like two ordinary planks of wood, the gesture is worth a whole lot more. How do you properly thank someone for letting the game go into overtime and not when you run out of equipment? How do you best express gratitude for not just allowing kids to be kids by playing outside, but actually encouraging it? Welcoming play because that’s what kids should do.
The National Wildlife Federation estimates that the average child spends only 4-7 minutes per day playing outside.
Thanks to the kindness of one neighbor, our outside time will not only well exceed that, but will be spent playing rather than mourning foul balls that fall down Mt. Olympus’ sink.