Come Home When the Streetlights Come On...

Those words are reminiscent of my childhood. Young and free, we raced through the neighborhood, roller skating, kicking the can and climbing trees...actual trees! We lived in a small suburban town in California. It was very safe.

I'm pretty sure those exact words were used in the marketing materials for the master-planned Ladera Ranch back in the late 90's. At that time, the new, suburban, South Orange County town was flooded with families seeking some fertile soil in which to plant their roots. We were sold! In 2000, husband, baby and I moved into Ladera and have been calling it "home" ever since.

Schools alive with learning, fields packed with soccer practices, neighborhoods lined with pocket parks...this is home. And, for the most part, we feel very safe here. But it doesn't take much to transition from feeling secure to feeling vulnerable. Recently, and unfortunately, our town has been victimized. Our entire town.

The victims are not just the two 12-year-olds playing at the park who, thankfully, escaped attack. All our kids are victims. They hear stories of a school shooting and wonder if it could happen here. They hear about a bad guy lurking in the park and wonder where he's hiding out. My littlest keeps asking if I think he's still in Ladera. My middle says that I don't have to worry about him, that he can run really fast. (He actually can.) But when the rumors spread around town as ruthlessly as head lice, all of our frightened children are the victims.

And they aren't the only ones. With far-reaching and easily-accessible information, fear spreads. We adults see Facebook posts of adorable first-graders taken from this world too young, and we sob, heartbroken for their families. At school pick-ups we swap details with other parents of break-ins, shooting sprees and other crimes, and we wonder how it could happen in our seemingly safe city.

But bad things can happen. Anywhere. So it's our job to be a part of the safe haven that we call home. It's ours to protect. We need to be outside, watching our children and watching out for danger. Conduct a "Stranger-Danger" refresher around the dinner table. Show them what to watch for and carefully explain the scary truth that a cell phone or a friend may not be enough to protect them.

Because bad things can happen. Anytime. So let's make sure our diligence doesn't diminish a year from now, when time has buffered us from these scary events. Remember to sit on the porch when the kids are racing around the neighborhood, skateboarding, dodging the ball, or searching for a mature tree they can actually climb.

After all, we are a village. It's our job to watch out for each other and take ownership of our safety. Let's live and play and make memories. And when the day is done, let's walk each other safely home when the streetlights come on.

Holly and Jenn

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