Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Do You...

Remember When

  • Summer was heralded by the frantic scribbling of pencils on paper, scented with aroma of eraser debris and the heady smells of mimeographed exams?
  • Parents didn't scramble to find something to occupy their children during the weeks of summer vacation, they just made sure that the hosepipes were functional and the locks sturdy?
  • Three bowls of sugar-laden cereal didn't seem all that excessive, and in fact were considered a well-balanced breakfast?
  • Scabby knees were badges of honor, regardless of gender? Their protrusion between the hems of shorts and the tops of tube socks were a sign that trees had been climbed, hills had been conquered and bicycles tamed.
  • Speaking of bicycles - do you remember wearing helmets? Me neither.
  • Bologna sandwiches were excellent lunches? 
  • Barbie and Ken broke up because Barbie had the hots for G.I. Joe? Or was that just at my house?
  • Bottle-rockets were fired from one end of the street to the other as a part of the on-going war that was Camellia Lane? And somehow, no one lost an eye or a thumb?
  • The street lights went on and everyone started running, calling out see-you-laters and same-time-tomorrows?
I do. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the street and the people on it. I remember the red rubber ball that we played four-square with. I remember calling out "CAR!" and moving out of the way. I remember my white bike with the banana seat and the white plastic basket on the front that was covered with plastic daisies.

I don't remember what my mother did. I assume she was around, but she had her own friends and her own things to do. I guess she was running errands and taking care of my little sister and gardening. And making bologna sandwiches. Sometimes they even had fried bologna on them, but only when we were being particularly good.

I wonder what my children will remember. Likely, it will be all the time spent in the car to get to this thing or that thing. They'll remember time spent hitting tennis balls and time at the neighborhood pool. But they won't remember the freedom that they had, because kids just don't have that any more. Even when I send them out to explore and ride their bikes and have a great time, they come back...there aren't any other kids out exploring. We go to the pool and it's just us and the toddlers until 4 or 5 in the afternoon, when the parents are off work and the kids can finally come out to play.

All the other kids are at day camps and day cares and math tutoring sessions and art classes and music intensives. Because summer is the time to get ahead and make up lost ground and pushpushpush so we don't get behind.

And I'm sorry for them. I'm sorry that they never shot a bottle-rocket at their friend and watched in horror as it hit the bill of his ball cap and flew straight up in the air. I'm sorry that they haven't perfected the art of manufacturing fake blood out of Karo syrup and food coloring and scaring their mom half to death with it. I'm sorry that they never got lost in the woods behind the neighborhood and worried they'd never find their way home but then realized that they were only three houses away. I'm sorry they never played kickball in the street with the four-square ball and had to quit when Jason's mom called him home early and he had to take the ball with him. 

I'm sorry they never picked up the hose when they were thirsty and just drank out of the end of it instead of coming in the house and getting water from the fridge. Because that burst of cool water, after all the hot water that had been sitting in the hose all day ran out...that was the stuff of legend - the nectar of the summer gods. And once you had your fill, you gently placed your thumb over the end and sprayed all your friends and the droplets of water hung in the afternoon heat and created prisms of light. 

And nothing was more perfect than that.