Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summers Impossible Now

Summer was always my favorite time of year growing up. I left the house by 9 most mornings and would return around 5, usually just in time for supper. I'd snag lunch at the home of one of the many kids in the neighborhood my age, give or take a year or two. Then we'd be back to our adventure-of-the-day.

The street was new. There was always at least one house under construction--a child's delight at at every stage. We had a blast climbing up and sliding back down huge mounds of dirt from newly excavated basements. We swung from bare rafters, jumped through window frames, and climbed on the brick layers' scaffolding. After the dry wall went up we played hide and seek. Staying ever vigilant for parents, construction workers, and prospective buyers just made it that much more exciting.

I distinctly recall six different tree houses, each more impressive than the last, assembled from pilfered construction materials in huge trees on land we didn't own. There were also several caves--big holes covered with a piece of plywood in various locations in a big pasture at the end of our street. After they sold the farm, we took over a one-room shack left behind by a road crew. It was so far out that you could see anyone coming long before they would arrive.

The tree houses, caves and the construction shack were places to hang out. At least for me--I suspect some of the older kids had other uses for them. The fun part was identifying the need for a new place to hang out, scoping out possible locations, designing an appropriate space, pilfering the necessary tools and materials to build it and then working together to achieve the vision. The completed project never quite measured up to the vision--especially the unventilated caves and the windowless shack.

If it wasn't a school night, we'd rush through a silent supper (Dad always read the afternoon paper at the dinner table and conversation was forbidden) to rejoin our friends outside. Initially we had to come home when the street lights came on. When we got a little older, my parents turned the porch light on when it was time to come in.

We'd play in an empty house, hang out at or work on our newest digs, and otherwise occupy our time waiting for the sun to go down. Then we'd gather under the street light in the cul de sac at the end of the street to play kick the can. We'd designate an "it" who stacked the cans (we liked four with a coffee can base and a tomato paste can on top) then counted to 100 while we hid in the backyard of one of the seven houses on the cul de sac.

Being "it" was awful. With seven yards to hide in, you had to go behind houses to find people, leaving the cans vulnerable. You could catch a dozen or more people but someone almost always kicked the cans, setting everyone free. We played until eleven of twelve almost every night.

The childhood I had is just not an option for most kids today. We did things...lots of things on our own with no supervision from any parent or other adult. Can you imagine that happening today? Hardly. Makes me sad.

The Crotchety Old Man

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