There were few things as sacred to my childhood as those magical days between June and September. It was in these months that so many lifetime memories were made and life’s experiences were gained.
Known simply as “summertime”, these treasured days were filled with zero responsibility and each new day presented exciting new opportunities to experience the world unlike ever before.
Though from six to sixteen, the focus of my attention changed drastically, the general premise of summer never did – enjoy life to its fullest.
When I think back to summertime when I was a kid, my memories are all outside. Barefoot, my mornings began with grass clippings affixed to my wet feet as dozens of us kids played tag or hide-n-seek throughout the neighborhood… not sure why I never wore shoes in the morning, but looking back, none of us kids did.
Looking back, the world was a far gentler place – or at least it appeared so through the eyes of a ten-year-old. None of the neighbors minded you hiding from your friends under their porch or offering a drink of sweet iced tea to the children hard at play. When I think about summertime, I think about the kindness of sweet old ladies.
By lunchtime, the beaming sun was hot and our bellies were hungry. A quick retreat inside the un-air conditioned house with countless fans circulating stuffy hot air was rewarded with red hotdog weenies, a bologna sandwich or a cheeseburger and french fries if you were really lucky.
Other lucky days would include a trip to the local swimming pool, fishing on a creek bank, or an opportunity to latch on to a friend’s family outing for the day.
Summer afternoons were typically spent building forts, shooting each other with imaginary guns made from sticks, or playing baseball – on a field that featured a pine tree for first base, a rock for second, a white oak for third and an undetermined and often argued area known as “homeplate.”
Summertime evenings were either spent outside, soaking in the remaining glimpse of sunlight before catching as many lightning bugs as one could get before mom would make you come inside… or taking a bath (in water that would be filthy by the time you stepped out of the tub) in order to attend a local Vacation Bible School – Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of God, it didn’t matter. Back in those days, they all believed the Bible without any question, “From cover to cover… even the maps,” I once heard a preacher exclaim!
Summertime when I was a kid was special. It was the time of year we celebrated our country’s birthday, visited grandparents for weeks without end, enjoyed our first experiences in love and heartbreak. To put it simply, summertime is when kids came to life.
Fast-forward a generation and a half down the road and it’s only the second week of July and stores are busy hanging “Back to School” signs. Locally, our children will return to class in the first week of August – barely midway through summer back when I was a kid!
I understand the plight of educators, the first six weeks of school are spent reviewing everything the kids forgot over the course of the previous summer; however, I still can’t help but fear for a society whose children are being robbed of the life lessons of summertime.
If you are reading this and you have children, turn the television off and lock them outside… one day, they’ll be grateful that you did!
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