Looking Back on the Days of Summer
The last day of school for the kids was on Tuesday and it started me reminiscing about my summer vacations. My friends and I couldn’t wait for that last school bell to ring marking our two and a half months of freedom. Freedom from classrooms, freedom from homework, freedom from bedtimes, and, most importantly, freedom from our parents.
I would get out of bed on hot summer mornings, quickly dress and eat a bowl of sugary cereal before rushing out the door to find other neighborhood kids.
We lived in a small city in Iowa and our neighborhood was full of baby boomer parents and lots of kids my age. I could choose to either play Barbie dolls with the girls or baseball with the boys. Sometimes both groups would get together for a game of kickball at a nearby vacant lot. Other times I would just get on my bike and ride wherever I liked.
I remember going home only for lunch or supper and then finally just before dark as my mom would shout out of the kitchen door for me to come in. Even then I would do my best to be deaf to her calls until I knew she was really getting serious and I’d be in big trouble if I ignored her any longer.
Every summer I’d also stay a couple of weeks at my aunt and uncle’s farm. I’d spend the days playing with their dog or the latest litter of kittens, picking green beans, zucchini and kohlrabi from the garden, and shucking corn for my aunt to freeze for the winter. At night my aunt, my two cousins, and I would go outside to catch lighting bugs, then sit and talk while we looked up at the stars in the vast, dark sky.
If I was there over the Fourth of July, we’d go into the nearby little town to watch the fireworks and go to the dance. While the shows certainly couldn’t compete with the displays I’ve seen as an adult at places like Disneyland or even our own CV fireworks, I ooh’d and ahh’d more over them than I ever have since.
So much has changed in the last 40 years and, sadly, kids don’t have the freedoms my friends and I enjoyed. We don’t let our kids roam the neighborhood or ride their bikes wherever they want and there aren’t any more vacant lots to start a game of kickball.
Most of our kids’ friends won’t even be at home. They’ll either be at day camp, sleep away camp, or traveling with their families. One of the moms even created a Google doc to keep track of everyone’s plans so we could coordinate play dates.
I like to think our kids will be able to look back fondly at the summers of their childhood, but I have a feeling they’ll never compare to mine.