Friday, May 18, 2007

Summertime, When the Livin' Was Easier

School will be out soon. What do kids these days do during the summer? Aside from family vacations, I mean; I'm talking about on an everyday basis. I know there are closely supervised organized activities and daycare, and some kids still go to camp, I presume. Things are very different from when I was a child. I think it's sad that today's children cannot be allowed the same simple freedoms I enjoyed as a child. It's a different world today, a world in which it is incumbent on parents to know where their children are at all times. It is a world of Amber Alerts and microchips and youngsters' fingerprints and DNA on file -- just in case.

When I was a kid and school was out for the summer, my two sisters and I would sleep late, then get up and eat the hot breakfast our grandmother insisted we eat every morning. Our parents worked and Grandma was our "babysitter." Our grandparents lived with us, which was a fairly common arrangement in a lot of families back then (the last Stone Age). Once we had eaten the requisite breakfast, we were free to ditch our little brother and spend the rest of the day pretty much any way we chose. Most days, we'd get on our bikes and ride off to meet up with our neighborhood friends. Most of the time, we returned home for lunch, but our only real obligation was to show up back home before dark. Some days were spent at friends' houses doing girl stuff, some days we went to the movies, some days we pedaled to the mall. A lot of afternoons were whiled away sitting at the soda fountain of the neighborhood drugstore, drinking Cokes and ice cream sodas and eating French fries.

We did take family vacations, though they don't comprise my most idyllic childhood summer memories. Road trips cooped up in a car with a high-strung mother, father with a hair-trigger temper, and three disagreeable siblings just weren't that much fun. I was much happier staying home, in familiar environs with my own friends.

We girls spent a lot of time exploring the nearby creek, cliffs, caves, and woods, unfettered by fears of crime and human predators. You certainly can't let kids go off on their own, unattended, today. There was a nice little swimming hole in the gently rippling, tea-colored creek and if we were hot, we dove in -- not from the cliffs, like the boys did. Cold creek water on a hot day felt like heaven. We didn't care that our clothes would be wet for a while afterwards. We knew we'd be dry by the time we got home and Grandma would never know the difference and, therefore, wouldn't yell at us. She did do a lot of screaming about the snakes and other wildlife we brought home.

We hated it when boys invaded our territory. Sometimes they'd descend upon us and practically declare war. They'd try -- or at least pretend -- to steal our bikes and our "stuff," throw us in the creek, dare us to scale the cliffs (and puff up and sulk when we made it to the top uninjured), and just generally make us miserable until we were able to run them off. There was one boy who accidentally caused me to have a bad bike wreck once -- bad enough to have to be carried home and hauled off to the doctor for a few stitches. A couple of years later, that same boy would be stealing kisses, freely given, on the same creek bank.

By today's standards, I guess we'd all be deemed incorrigible and deviant, maybe even sent to Juvie, and our parents arrested for not supervising us. The fields and woods are gone now, given over to new houses, and the creek meanders through a golf course.

I went to Girl Scout camp a couple of years, for a week or two at a time. I learned how to hike and how to blaze a trail (though I still have no sense of direction) and how to pee in the forest without getting poison oak on my butt. I managed to make fire as well as anyone else and figure out how to cook enough over it to avoid starvation, but I knew even at that tender age that I hated camping. Not for me were rickety cots with scratchy blankets in smelly cabins. If I'd hated my bunk mates on sight, I probably would have hitchhiked home. Luckily, it was always a fun group of girls, willing to stay up and gossip and tell tall tales long after lights out. The most fun I ever had at camp was the year we threw a beauty pageant. We made costumes and choreographed our "talent" routines and practiced for several days before the pageant on the next-to-the-last day of camp. I sang and danced my little heart out, but I didn't win the Miss Dark Hollow crown -- which, as I recall, was made out of tinfoil and had some sequins glued on it.

It was a different world, a simpler world -- innocent, enriching, educational and life-shaping, and ... safe. I know that those times and that world helped to mold me into a sturdy, self-sufficient adult. I find it ineffably sad that that world no longer exists. The children being raised today will be ... safety-conscious, I suppose. After all, every facet of their safety, every conceivable injurious element in their environments is legislated/regulated from the very day they're sent home from the hospital.

The Friday Twisted Linguistics Review

guillable - Having to do with one's ability to obtain membership in some type of guild.

interveine - A new way of shooting up.

listen, yawl - Quiet! 2-masted boat coming in.

compratriots - A gathering of people, usually from the same "publisher," who engage in group misnomers, public displays of misinformation, and other pratfalls.

figuered - You wrinkled fruit, you made a mistake.

You Are 28% Gross

You're a tad gross, but generally you're a clean, hygienic person.
No one can be perfectly clean all the time, and it's better to be human than a neat freak.


Roxan said...

We always lived by creeks and that's where I spent much of my childhood summers. There was bike riding, walking to the store and roaming the neighborhood.
We vacationed at a friend's sixteen room lodge in the Ozarks during the summer and took in the sights like Dogpatch USA.

leelee said...

Summers were wonderful carefree halcyon days. I loved this post..I could relate to it totally. I feel bad for kids today..that they will never know what lie was like for us then.

~You Are 32% Gross~
You're a tad gross, but generally you're a clean, hygienic person.
No one can be perfectly clean all the time, and it's better to be human than a neat freak.

have a great weekend Serena...

Kanrei said...

There are pros and cons to every generation. I did not get to do most of the things you spoke of doing as a kid, but I loved my childhood just as much and feel the same way about kids today. I also imagine them years from now talking about how great their childhoods were and how they feel bad for their kids. Childhood is magic to everyone going through it and each one is special and wonderful. I actually love driving to work during the summer- less traffic.

I do not need to take the gross test to tell you I am over 75% gross. I am a guy and single so nuff said.

Anonymous said...

Serena, you had summer's that kids today wouldn't relate to. Nice post.

Corn Dog said...

28% gross too. I think the dog kissing brought my score up.

You know I have no idea what children do now but I spend a good deal of time calling the police on them. I would like to herd them all on a bus around here and send them to camp to ride some horses and bale some hay for a while. This fighting and robbing and doing drugs isn't any good for them. At least school will be out and they will shut down the middle school by my house. Last time I complained to the principaly it wasn't a week later before one of 'em darted in front of car and got hit. They are insane. I don't remember being that insane. Maybe I was but just isolated on a farm.

Serena Joy said...

I know this must sound like crack-induced fiction to the younguns, but Roxan, Leelee, Steve, and Corn Dog, you know those "old world" summers I'm talking about since we're all around the same age.

I've never been to Dogpatch or the Ozarks, but I'd like to visit the Ozarks.

I got my score from dog kissing, too, Corn Dog. LOL.

Kan, I think everyone has fond memories of childhood, regardless of their age. It's just ... different, between the generations. One cannot miss what one has never known. Everybody's childhood is special, though, without question.

Corn Dog said...

Ponies, chickens, rabbits, sheep, lambs, cows, calves...I miss my buddies from my childhood. People are harder to deal with.

tfg said...

I can remember incessantly complaining that there was nothing to do during the summers. Now, I'd kill to have that kind of idle time.

Serena Joy said...

I had bunnies, too, CD, and dogs, cats, ducks, and even a chicken. And a pet cow for a while. I always wanted a pony, never got one. People ARE difficult -- except for you guys.:)

I know what you mean, T. I wouldn't know what to do with all that idle time now.

I'll bet you didn't throw girls in creeks, did you?

Hale McKay said...

I noticed you didn't mention skinny dipping.....

Your reflections resemble those of my youth when we we were at the grandparent's house for most of the summer.

...ponds, "cricks", hills, woods, rocks and clifs, animals, ... and the skinnny dipping.

Roxan said...

I don't think Dog Patch is there anymore. Once they ruined Branson everything that made it worth going was gone. Sort of like "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."
Branson was hokey, but it was fun.
I haven't been down there since Mandy was 2. She still has the little stool I had made for her in Silver Dollar City. Hopefully that's still worth going to.

Serena Joy said...

The boys probably did skinny dip, Mike, but the girls wouldn't have dreamed of it. Too much biting stuff in that "crick" -- fish, crawdads, frogs, turtles. Snakes. And, of course, we knew that if we'd ever tried it, the boys would have sneaked in and stolen our clothes. LOL.

So, Roxan, it sounds like Dogpatch fell victim to commercialism. I've never heard of Silver Dollar City, but it sounds like a place you enjoyed. You ought to take L & K and go back for a visit.

Roxan said...

If you like folk art it is a good place to go for hands on experience.

Serena Joy said...

I DO like folk art. Sounds like a place I need to put on my "To Visit" list.

Liz said...

A fabulous post. Such beautiful memories - I could have been watching a film.

Serena Joy said...

Thank you, Liz.