Today’s memoir writing class focused on life before electronics, before we spent our evenings posted in front of the television set or game consoles. What did we DO before electronics? What were our summers like?
I had an unusual childhood, in that I never really watched television until 1965, having lived in France prior to that. My childhood evenings were spent playing games with my brothers, listening to classical music or show tunes on my parents’ “hi fi” stereo console, or reading. How we read! And that’s only after I was forced to come inside. I much preferred to be outside at the playground, riding my bike, rollerskating, or playing baseball or games of pretend with my friends.
Today we recalled what it was like to drift through the lazy days of summer. In my childhood, we’d get up early on a summer morning, shovel some cereal into our mouths, and take off for the unfenced outdoors, where groups of kids congealed and then launched into play for the day. At some point in the midday, we’d break off our games, holler to each other to “be back in 15” and dash off to get lunch, each at our separate homes, since we were typically too big a group to eat at one house. Then, it would be more play until dinner time, half an hour for dinner, and then back outside until it got too dark to see. On special nights, we were allowed to stay out after dark. That’s when the real fun began, especially Hide and Seek. Who can forget the primal fear of being hunted in the dark, and then dashing madly for the “base,” typically somewhere in a circle of light. Tag! No, free! I tagged you! Did not! FREE!
Our days were unscheduled, except for baseball or softball practice or games. There were no camps for us, no schedules to meet. We were told to stay out of trouble (which we managed to do for the most part) and set free. No one was bored. In fact, for me, there never seemed to be enough time to do everything I wanted to do. Well, pick-up baseball games could last an entire day, for one thing, and some of our world series lasted for a week or so.
For me, visions of heaven include the smell of freshly mowed lawns and summer evening barbecues. Images of heaven include my bare feet stained green by those mowed lawns, and my Dad standing at the barbecue, flipping burgers and hot dogs, Mom sitting nearby, relieved of kitchen duty and enjoying the company of Dad and friends. The best of times included evenings when our friends would come to eat and we’d stay in the backyard after dark. A community in the summer heat. Heaven.
What will my children remember of summer? I very much doubt that they’ll have the same sense of freedom, or of time standing still, of long, endless days of summer. In their lifetimes, summer was abridged to seven or eight weeks, not the three months we enjoyed. (And that was only because we didn’t make them go to summer school or camps, as some parents did.) As a consequence, I think the summers felt rushed. I wish I could have given them my summers, my moments of heaven. Perhaps they had their own moments. I’ll have to ask them.