The summer I was about eight or nine, my girlfriend and I would walk to Vespa’s, the local family-owned grocery store about once a day. As we walked the quarter mile to the store, we would look in the shallow ditches for soda bottles. We’d usually find one or two or sometimes even three. Vespa’s would give us five cents for each bottle we brought in. We would then take our earnings directly across the street to B&B, a family-owned candy store, and spend 45 minutes to an hour studying the glass case trying to figure out how to best spend our earnings. That was the day of penny candy and you could get a generous bag of candy for 10 or 15 cents. So much to choose from — wax lips, candy cigarettes, Jolly Ranchers, Pixie Stix, Jaw Breakers, things that would fizz and pop in your mouth. And then without a care in the world, we would slowly walk home eating our way through the little waxy white bag of goodies and arguing over who was cuter, David Cassidy or Donny Osmond.
My son will never have to scavenge soda bottles for candy. And that is unfortunate. I am in a position to give him anything and everything except for the one thing I would really like to give him, something that has been lost to the ages — a lazy carefree, unscheduled, unsupervised summer afternoon of enterprising scavenging with a friend.
There are no sidewalks with ditches around here. There is no family-owned corner store. There are no more penny candies. There is no candy store. And even if there were I would never let him get a quarter mile out of my sight.
The new millennium has brought us so many good things — so many things that will make his life better and longer. But as I look at a little boy who will never know what it’s like to be the boss of his summer day or feel the wind blowing through his hair as he independently explores and discovers the world on his bike, I think I would like to give back some technology in exchange for some innocence.