Piece of Mind: A fruitless search for children at play

I decide on the spur of the moment to go on a kid hunt. The weather is warm, but not quite its usual hot August self. It feels like it's in the low 80s as I stand in our driveway experiencing a tiny gust of wind, a preview of the afternoon breezes that are guaranteed to sweep through in a couple of hours. It's the perfect day for outdoor activities.

This morning I've been thinking about how school is just about to get underway here in La Cañada — several days earlier than in previous years and nearly a month sooner than the bells rang on the first day of school when I was a Paradise Canyon Elementary student. It's been so quiet around here in recent days that I wonder if everyone knows they're supposed to be queuing up for school drop-offs and pick-ups come Tuesday. I'm curious, since I hear no sounds of children: where is everyone?

I skulk through the neighborhoods behind the wheel of my car in search of kids savoring their last days of summer vacation. I plan to stop to take notes if something catches my eye. (I swear, one day someone from the CV Sheriff's Station is going to pull me over and ask what business I have driving through La Cañada streets, craning my neck and jotting things down on a pad of paper. Someone is going to think I'm casing properties for a daytime burglary. “No, sir, I'm just a reporter,” I'll say. “Aren't you a little old for that?” the deputy will ask, and I'll be forced to admit that he's right.)

I take the back roads from my street up to Palm Crest Elementary. There's not so much as one child in sight. In fact, there's not a person of any description in my line of vision until I reach Palm Drive, where the recently painted crosswalks near the campus are so bright they seem to have been created with neon. A woman walks a small dog on the sidewalk there and a crew of workmen appear to be tucking into lunch at the south end of the school site, where it looks like a landscaping project is taking place.

Winding my way through town toward La Cañada Elementary, I still see no children at play. When I reach Encinas Drive, I find cars parked there that I surmise belong to teachers readying their classrooms. I traverse several different streets between that campus and my childhood playground. The only other person I spot in the next 15 minutes of driving around is the owner of Flintridge Bookstore, who is pedaling his bike across Knight Way. At Paradise Canyon I again see cars in the school's lot, but no kids. Not a single one.

And so it continues for 90 full minutes and a windshield tour that takes me past nine different campuses, public and private. Through neighborhoods that are grand and more modest. And the skate park. And Georgee's Pizza. Nary a child is seen. I spot no lemonade stands set up by young entrepreneurs, no daredevils boarding down one of our hills.

I'd like to think they're not all indoors this glorious day but are instead out of town, having some adventures during these final days of freedom.

CAROL CORMACI is the managing editor. She can be reached at carol.cormaci@latimes.com.

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