It is officially summer. The calendar and the thermometer are in agreement. But summer doesn’t mean what it used to — not to me and not to children anywhere, at least not so far as can be determined by me.
I know. I know. Here we go again, waxing nostalgic about the good old days that couldn’t possibly have been as good as I remember. Or could they? I know one thing. I wouldn’t trade one of my summers for one any child I know is experiencing in 2014. Not by a long shot.
My official summer uniform, back in the day, was a pair of shorts and my step-ins. Two garments were all that were necessary for living life to the fullest in the Porterdale of my youth. T-shirts were optional, but seldom worn. Shoes were discarded as soon as school was dismissed on the last day of the term, and the only time we put them on during the week is if we needed something to attach a roller skate to, speaking of which, when’s the last time you saw a skate key?
My mama used to say that I was “brown as a little Indian” by the 4th of July. I guess the ACLU, the patent board and the president of the United States would be up in arms against her if she uttered such remarks these days.
Days were endless and I know you have heard it all before, but we really were outside from the time it got good daylight until our mamas called us for supper — and what suppers they were back when everybody had their own gardens. We were right back outside once the dishes had been washed, dried and put away. Kids had chores back in the old days and they didn’t include loading the dishwasher. We were the dishwashers. Then we had to be back in the house — or at least in sight of the house — by the time the streetlights came on. That is unless there was softball game going on at Snow Field. If that were the case all curfews were suspended until 15 minutes after Blunt Patterson had struck out the final opposing batter.
The young people of today have missed out on so much. A few of them might have captured lightning bugs and put them in a mayonnaise jar with holes poked in the lid with an ice pick — but I bet not many. Raise your hand, by the way, if you can still remember how lightning bugs made the palms of your hands smell. I do.
I bet there’s not a person in this area under the age of 50 who has made a “tractor” out of a Prince Albert can, two empty spools and a rubber band. I have — and have played with said toy for hours on end. When’s the last time you think a kid — any kid — has rummaged through the neighborhood for cast-off junk and made a go-cart out of old boards and discarded wheels and axles? Or built a tree hut or any type of fort without benefit of parental involvement and a set of blueprints?
It is going to be hot this week, they say, but I bet it is not going to be hot enough for the volunteer fire department to open up a hydrant so the neighborhood kids can splash around in it and cool off.
I drove around the neighborhood the other day and didn’t see a single kid playing sandlot baseball. Modern kids would be lost if they had to actually choose up sides for a game without adult supervision or figure out how to get by without two full teams. Remember when you were out if you hit the ball to the opposite field because there weren’t enough players to play both sides. Push-up? Roller bat? Flies and grounders? What are those games?
Now I don’t advocate kids sneaking off and swimming in the river — or even making rope swings and such — but I am glad I survived doing it and on the occasions when I did get caught — well, the memories lasted longer than the switching.
Evenings brought long games of Red Rover, freeze tag and tag-out-of-jail. We solved our own problems and officiated our own fusses and somehow we made it to adulthood with our imaginations and most of our limbs intact.
Yes, summers were magical, and we still found time for the swimming pool and Little League baseball and reading library books and going to Vacation Bible School and Boy Scout Camp.
I will stand by what I have said before. Those really were the good old days.