Younger Generation's Scary Future
The Young Prince is 2. In case you've somehow missed previous familial ramblings in this space, the Young Prince is our first and only grandchild, Jasper. He lives in Brooklyn in the custody of his parents, who are somehow making him into a perfect child. Of course, it helps that he is brilliant, handsome, cheerful and apparently ambidextrous, but I still give them credit.
His birthday last weekend precipitated a trip to Brooklyn, and, following the usual practice, my wife and I did not set foot in Manhattan. Thus, but for the news, we could have remained blissfully unaware of the unpleasantness over on Wall Street. As it was, we simply ignored it.
If you've never visited Brooklyn, and I hadn't until our son and his wife moved there, it is a world apart from that island between the rivers. Sure, it's crowded by our local standards, but it has neighborhoods of lovely old brownstones, quiet streets and trees. Traffic is remarkably quiet, and commercial streets are lined with the kind of small businesses and restaurants that are going broke everywhere else.
Our son and daughter-in-law are both in the process of moving their respective offices to the DUMBO district - that's an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass - which will end almost any necessity to cross that bridge into Manhattan on a regular basis.
From my perspective, at least, being a kid in Brooklyn today is tougher and more restrictive than it was 50-odd years ago in Kansas City (I suppose that applies well beyond Brooklyn), but it is a lot better than it would be in Manhattan. The YP plays in the various nearby parks with their rows of parked strollers or dons his helmet and races crazily on his scooter around the local school playground. Other kids are imported and exported regularly for social enhancement.
His birthday party was two hours of unmitigated chaos. Twenty-some people, comprising other 2-year-olds and their parents, assembled in a one-bedroom condo whose air conditioning was not up to the task. He now has enough toys to last him until he gets a driver's license - which, given the minimal need for driving and the absence of parking places in Brooklyn, could be many, many years.
I have to admit I'd like to see the YP and his family move someplace more spacious and less hurried, someplace where they could spread out and lead a calmer life. There are just a few problems with that notion: They don't want to; their work is not transportable; I'm not sure where that would be.
Sure, there are lots of places with nice houses with yards more affordable than Brooklyn's small apartments, but is there any place on earth anymore to lead the quiet life? Wherever he is, the YP is going to grow up in a confusing, competitive, contradictory world. There is no escape left on our increasingly integrated planet.
Count me among the many who are very concerned about the future of our progeny. The YP is a happy kid still unaware of his $45,000 (and growing) share of the national debt, the declining value of the 529 College Saving Plans already in place for him, or the social and economic issues boiling up all over the world.
Maybe some of those things will at least be on the way to resolution by the time he is able to understand them, but maybe not.
Maybe, as we are increasingly being told by everyone but our presumptive leaders, our country, if not the entire world, is headed into a downward spiral. The YP and his generation will have to reap the whirlwinds born of the winds we have sown.
I won't be here to see how it all comes out, but the beginnings are unsettling enough. I hope they do better than we have.
Fred Wolferman lives in Southern Pines. Contact him by email at email@example.com.
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