Monday, September 18, 2006

"My grandchildren were visiting for the week. They came with a written calendar of events, pick-up times and drop-off times. I was in charge of keeping them busy and on schedule. I'm not good at either.

As an elder adult, I manage to keep occupied, but I don't think I'm busy. My dog doesn't care if he's busy. He just wants to walk twice a day. And my cats, in between long naps, avoid being busy. I do not have a busy house, though I have a business in my home. I wasn't certain how my grandchildren would react to the lack of activity, to the abundance of free time. "What are we doing today?" they would ask. "I don't know," I'd answer. I could see by their faces it was not the expected reply. Somehow we managed to pass the day. We did some staring at the squirrels running up the tree. We took the dog for a walk and played with him. We sat on rocking chairs, watching people walk up and down the street, and we wondered aloud where they were going. We spent some time talking to the parakeet in his cage. We drew some chalk pictures on the sidewalk, and for an hour or two, we just sat, bring bored. But that was OK. Because in the free-time zone, you don't have to be entertaining or exciting or wonderful all the time (emphasis mine).

Or busy. You can just be.

But kids today are accustomed to being like busy bees. They're busy from the time they get up until the time they go to bed. And it's a long day. Some of them get up at 7 a.m. and do not go to bed until 10 or 11 p.m. Not only are they busy at school, they are busy with after-school activities, and with keeping up with their friends who are also busy. They do a lot of traveling in cars, keeping busy going from one house to another to fulfill play dates. Play no longer is spontaneous. It's scheduled, as are dance classes, soccer and baseball, and religious classes, and add to the itinerary doctor's and dentist's appointments.

There is little free time. Unscheduled time is a rare treasure, on the brink of becoming extinct. People fear it, run from it and avoid it. One morning during my weekend in charge of the children, we lay in my king-size bed all morning deciding what to do with the day. We thought about it a long time. We watched television. We talked. We told each other things we didn't have time to share before. We explored our feelings about the day and about some problems disturbing us. We even dared to be silent with each other. Nobody moved to get dressed. Nobody made a telephone call to a friend. We didn't know what was going on outside the house. We didn't even care. We were in the free-time zone, the no-time zone, the no-clock, no-schedule, no-pressure zone, where it doesn't matter if there's nothing to do (emphasis mine).

And no place to go"
(Harriet May Savitz, The Fresno Bee, September 16, 2006, Section F, Page One).