Blast From the Past
A lot of us remember a simpler time: before the internet, cell phones, video games, and computers. When we were young, we played outside instead of spending time shut in our rooms. We knew our neighbors and kept our doors unlocked at night.
DAYS OF SUMMER
As kids, the biggest thing we looked forward to was summer vacation. It was golden. Months stretched before us with endless possibilities. We didn’t dare utter the words, “I’m bored,” because our parent’s could find plenty of chores to occupy our time.
My dad built my brother and I a tree house in an old cherry tree in the back yard. We would play for hours, then lay on the roof of the tree house, while the mourning doves called and gaze at the stars as they winked on one by one. We could see the stars better then, less lights from the city and pollution, I guess. At the first star, we would say the rhyme, ‘Star Light, Star Bright,’ then we would make our wish. Of course, we couldn’t tell the wish or it wouldn’t come true.
I remember watching the sun set as shadows grew longer then merged together. A blue sky turning red, then blooming into indigo. Then the fireflies would flash on, lighting up the night sky. We would catch, “Lightning Bugs” in mason jars to use as lanterns. My hands smelled of weeds and loamy soil. We had competitions with the neighbors to see who could catch the most. Before we would go inside for the night, we would open our jars at the same time and watch the fireflies burst out of the jars like fireworks.
During the days of summer, I would be outside all day. We would play at the neighbor’s house or at the canal or the cornfield. I never went inside, except for bathroom breaks, because inside meant chores. If I got hungry during the day, I could choose between grapes, apples, cherries or the garden produce. If I got thirsty, there was always the garden hose. Best water ever. We stayed outside until the sun went down and my dad stood on the back porch and whistled for us to come home. If he had to whistle twice, we were in trouble.
Saturdays were always the best day of the week, because it meant Saturday morning cartoons. Looking back, I realize just how violent some of those cartoons were. They were filled with sexual innuendo or inside jokes that only adults understood. But no matter, the TV would be cranked up as we stared wide-eyed at the colorful, frenetic, jangle of morning bliss.
Halloween is, hands down, the biggest kid holiday. We looked forward to it all year. Some of us had money to get the coveted store bought costumes. I remember sweltering under a rigid plastic mask, hair tangled in the rubber band and visibility at nil. I still remember the smell of those plastic masks as the sweat ran down my face and into my eyes. Other kids made due with homemade costumes consisting of a sheets, cardboard boxes or garbage bags. Oh, the possibilities of garbage bags.
We all competed to see who go to the most houses and get the biggest haul of candy. We knew what houses gave out the best treats, and the houses to avoid who gave out ribbon candy and black licorice. The home made treats were the best. I looked forward to the popcorn balls and the rice crispy treats. I never traded those. My brother and I would go into strangers houses, waiting for candy, and nothing bad would happen.
In the winter, we looked forward to sled riding. We always had races, wooden metal runner sleds against the newer models of plastic disk sleds. For pure speed, the runner sleds usually won. Sometimes we would build ramps at the bottom of the hill to see which sled got the most air before crashing to the ground. The lighter weight disc sleds won hands down.
We would pile on a toboggan, clutching the person in front of us, screaming the whole way down as the wind reddened our cheeks and stole the breath from our lungs. As I trudged up the hill, dragging my sled behind me, I swear the hill was much bigger going up. We would slide down that hill all day until it got dark. It felt like the longest trek dragging that sled home as I finally noticed how numbness in my fingers, toes and nose. When I finally got home, I couldn’t take off my snow suit because the zipper was frozen shut.
WHERE’S MY SNOW DAY?
I remember walking to school in the snow. Snow days were rare for us in Ohio. As long as the plows could clear the roads, we went to school. My mom would bundle us in so many layers, I could barely put my arms down. When we got to school, the teacher had to help us out of our layers because our mom’s had bundled us so tightly. I remember sitting in class doing school work as our outside layers dried on hooks at the back of the classroom and hearing the tap, tap, tap of water hitting the hardwood floor as the snow melted and the scent of wet wool permeated the air.
In the cafeteria, I remember the hard, plastic, partitioned lunch trays. Every square filled filled with food. We were so careful with that tray on our way to sit at the table with our friends, because a dropped tray meant humiliation. We had to eat everything on our tray. regardless if we liked it or not. We used to hide food in our milk container, but the teachers soon caught on to that.
Looking back, I find myself thinking back to a simpler time, when people took the time to notice the little things. Today, life seems busier, faster-paced and more frenzied. Everyone is in such a hurry. My children don’t know what it’s like to lay in the grass and look for shapes in the clouds, go snipe hunting, look for earthworms to go fishing or lay on the roof of a tree house watching the stars wink on one by one.