Angelia McLean : Country Mouse City Mouse 8-15-11
I suppose it is common for one generation to believe their time was the best to be a kid. But as I watch my children grow up and experience all the kid things that are their rites of passage to adulthood, I can’t help but believe that it doesn’t seem as much fun nowadays as I remember when I was their age. Is that my fault? Is it our over protective society? Or is it the mindless distractions that keep kids hibernating even in the summer? Is this the same problem for country living families or just an urban problem? It’s as if we were different species of developing humans than what are evolving today and I truly believe my summertime memories can prove it.
Summertime was all about testing the theory of evolution and thumbing our noses at the possibility of being taken out of the gene pool. We rode bicycles everywhere without helmets and, as I recall, my sister and I rode 5-miles into town, part of the route being on the gravel shoulder of a U.S. Highway to get to the swimming pool where we spent the entire afternoon sans sun block. Roller-skating did not include kneepads, helmets or wrist and elbow pads. One summer I was going to try and break the record for longest roller skating person like Tim Conway in the movie “Roll Freddy Roll” (1974) in which he aims to impress his son by keeping his skates on for a world record. I managed a pogo stick obsession one summer without any trip to the ER. In fact, I never was in the ER as a kid. (Managed that milestone as an adult). We were barefoot most of the time, ran with sharp objects and played outside in the dark.
As a young developing specie of the past I am better adapted for the global warming Armageddon. We didn’t have air conditioning for years and when my parents had it installed, it ran so infrequently that I recall curling up right in front of the vent to get my ‘fix’ until it disappointingly would shut off never to know when it would bring relief again. An air-conditioned car? Right! The black vinyl seats were like giant vacuums that sucked the bottom of your thighs as you left the steaming inferno. And let’s just forget the idea of car seats, seatbelts and cup holders.
My grandmother’s house was even hotter but a summer week with her brought new meaning to the word ‘fun.’ We ate as many cookies and Kool-Aid as we wanted. She took us to eat at Kresge’s for diner counter gourmet or fresh mini donuts from their donut machine! We played all day with our cousins, pitched tents in her backyard for camping and helped her bring in the garden haul of fresh veggies. With 50 cents we’d walk to the corner store, across train tracks and past ‘scary’ houses, and select from a buffet of candies. With our personal haul of sugary goodness, we’d trek back only this time daring one another to cross over by going under the stopped train instead of waiting for it to pass. A few times we attempted to coast down a steep hill by her house in a wagon but aborted that once we got to the top. (We weren’t always dumb). We’d giggle late into the night only to have her come and scold us, which always made us giggle more because she removed her dentures while sleeping. When gas lines prevailed, my sister and I were sent on the Greyhound bus to Grandma’s complete with ‘eau de cologne’ of smokers who didn’t have to abstain from their habit while traveling.
We had television but it was never on during the day. A computer was the entire floor of an office building and provided plenty of leisure time fun with the punch cards it would spit out. Games were played with others, not in isolation with joystick and headphones: You actually saw your opponent across from the game board and a good fight was physical not virtual. Your coin purse had a dime for emergency phone calls from a public payphone and you managed to touch the receiver without having to spritz yourself with antibacterial gel. Your bed was made in the morning never to be seen again until you dropped dead tired into it that night.
These were the memories of glorious summertime; carefree days and hot, insufferable nights; a grandmother with a big heart and soaking dentures in the bathroom; dirty feet and collecting junk; stolen green apples, wild raspberries roadside and picking up your ice cream even after it landed on dirty asphalt. Watermelon had seeds, grilling meant waiting forever for the charcoal to heat up and corn on the cob was a baker’s dozen for a dollar. Summer had sharp pointy objects, dangerous dares and scraped knees. It was better and I’m still here to write about it.
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