By: BA @ Kids Matter
I lived in a small town when I was growing up; in a quiet neighborhood where everyone knew each other. We moved to that neighborhood when I was about four years old, and lived there until the summer of my senior year in high school. It was a nice, new, white house with a big yard, driveway to ride my bike, and roller skate. There were kids to play with… and summertime was just the best.
In those days, school got out at the beginning of June and did not go back into session until the day after Labor Day. Ah, those were the days, my friend. If you have never had the opportunity to have a summer break for that long you have really missed out on something great. Summers would stretch out in front of us like a long and winding road. It was the days of sleeping in, eating breakfast late, watching “Howdy Doody” and “Uncle Al” then hitting the great outdoors for endless hours of pure enjoyment, fantasy, and magic. I had to be practically dragged in for lunch and supper. Often, my mother would let me eat lunch on the front porch. I couldn’t stand to miss a moment of what was happening outside!
Play was the name of the game! My best friend lived down the street and we literally spent every waking minute together. I walked to her house or she walked to mine.. And, we were followed everywhere by our pets. I had a beagle named Missy and she had a little bulldog named Skipper.
At my house, we played dolls and each of us had a “house” on either side of the front porch. We had tea parties and dressed up in our mother’s (donated) high heels, jewelry, and dresses. If we played bride then sheer curtains were our dress and veil. We also played with our doll houses under the big tree in the front yard. Sometimes we were allowed to play in the sprinkler and would laugh and squeal as the cold water sprayed us.
She lived on a farm (yes, there was one in town) and at her house we spent hours riding our bicycles up and down the long driveway, making a playhouse out of the chicken coop, looking for little fish in the stream that ran through the property, climbing trees, and putting on talent shows on the loading chute. We also mastered walking along the top rail of the horse fence surrounding the property.
At night, we played hide and seek and hunted lightening bugs. We walked the railroad tracks that ran through our neighborhood. Our mother’s didn’t worry about us because if we did anything wrong, a neighbor would be there to reprimand and then tell our parents! Neighbors were also there to lend a hand if we got hurt or when we needed someone to talk to. I was an only child and my friend had two sisters and a brother. It seemed like one huge family. It was a great time to be a kid!
We each had to be home by 10:00 p.m. to wash up and go to bed. There was no such thing as air conditioning so it was shorty pajamas and a black metal fan to cool me on those long hot nights. I would drift off listening to the sound of that fan. I never remember being uncomfortable (probably because I was so tired from playing all day).
As we grew older our playtime changed; boys became part of our growing circle of friends. We played wiffle ball and had endless tournaments. We challenged kids from other neighborhoods to play against us. At night we would play badminton, or my all-time favorite, croquette. We were allowed to walk to the library and stop for ice cream at the “ten cent store”. If it was a rainy day, we would meet on my friend’s covered front porch and play board games. Anyone who came by would stop and play.
Soon we became interested in those boys that we had been playing with for years. They magically started to look different in our eyes and we developed secret crushes on a new boy every week. We walked to the local movie theater. The boys sat behind us and would later follow us to the drug store for a coke. We spent Saturday mornings at the local bowling alley. The boys were there, too. We went to the local pool and sure enough, those boys would show up and show off. If there was a slumber party, you could bet that boys would be hiding outside and tapping on the window until someone’s mother caught them and sent them running home. Being a “tween” in the summer was so much fun. It was all so sweet and innocent. It was all so easy and peaceful.
My friend and I shared many, many, many summers together… many good times that we will never forget. When we entered high school we each had different activities. She was a cheerleader and I was a color guard in the band. Our friends grew to include lots and lots of other people and we slowly began to drift apart. Her life went one way and mine went another. The funny thing about it is that we are still friends, even though we rarely see each other. The impact we had on each other as we were growing up is still with us. We shared so much together back then… and now we have those fond memories to share. We could probably pick up right where we left off. I know we could.
Now that’s an idea… “Hey Carolyn, grab your dollhouse and come on over. I have a big tree in my backyard. Let’s PLAY!!”