I stood at the kitchen sink, pouring myself a cold glass of water from the tap, and listening. At first came the giggles and screeches. Then, the sound of feet running across the backyard and up onto the deck. A quick pow-wow to come up with a game plan, and they were gone again, just as fast as they'd come ... taking off in another direction.

One of the positives to come out of the stay-at-home orders, distance learning and working-from-home situations, at least from what I have seen in this area (and I am in no way claiming that it's like this across the nation) is the resurgence of a feeling I haven't experienced since childhood; the feeling of being part of a good, old-fashioned neighborhood.

When I was a kid, we played outside for most of the day with the kids who lived on our block. Our parents knew that if we weren't right in our own yard, we were likely next door, or a few doors down. We'd run the length of the street, using our imaginations to fabricate these wild little adventures, using our yards as the backdrop for these shenanigans, and using all of the kids from the surrounding houses as the players in our day-long stories. Sometimes we'd take breaks to refuel with snacks or drinks, or to shoot some hoops or kick a ball around. But we'd spend the entire afternoon and into the evening (when the sun allowed) playing outside, with the neighbors.

Then technology became tantalizing, and started to take over. These days, most kids know a childhood spent in front of screens and with controllers. Fewer and fewer have the neighborhood gangs of kids, who play tag across multiple yards, congregating and socializing outside. Socializing is now done, for the most part, on a virtual platform.

But with this recent pandemic, and all the restrictions that have been put into place because of it, I've started to hear little groups of kids playing outside again. And it makes my heart feel good.

I looked out my front door yesterday and saw a tree full of boys. There was another group of kids in a nearby driveway making chalk drawings. There had been some sort of conflict between two of the girls, and I listened as they figured it out among themselves, and kept right on drawing. An hour later, there were half-a-dozen kids playing on vines and building forts in the back-yard.

And because of the stay-at-home order, many of the parents have been working from home these days, and would check in from time to time, to make sure all was okay. It felt like a real neighborhood, from back when I was a kid.

For my kids, after spending the first part of the day having to do their schoolwork online, they just plain don't want to be in front of a screen any longer. And with the nice stretch of weather we've had, they've been racing to finish their studies so that they can head outside. Playing outside also allows them the space they need to keep far enough away from friends to stay safe, without feeling isolated, like so many students started to feel when this all began back in March.

To take a step back in time, when things seemed a little simpler and less complicated, and kids were allowed to be just that, kids, I think has been a good thing. If we're looking for silver linings or trying to make the best of a terrible situation, perhaps this is one of those good things to come out of a bad time.

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