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Today's Family Magazine

MOMMY CHRONICLES: An old school summer

By Stacy Turner

When I was young, summer seemed to stretch on for months and months. Maybe it’s because organized activities were limited, so the majority of summer stretched out before us just waiting to be discovered.  Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games — there were chores we hated, like cleaning and weeding, and countless poison ivy rashes from the evil plant we could never erase from our suburban yard.  There were countless bug bites and bee stings, or the fat lip I got while playing ball.  Or the time one sibling learned the hard way not to stand up in a canoe.

But mostly, summers in our neighborhood full of kids meant roller skating, riding bikes, picking berries, or simply lying in the grass to watch cloud shapes pass overhead.  When we could convince an adult to supervise, we made countless trips to the beach across the street from our houses.  On rainy days, we made Shrinky Dinks, knotted macramé, or wove God’s eyes using two sticks wrapped with colorful yarn.  Every so often we’d have ice cream -- a real treat for our family of eight -- but regular summer days meant freezer pops or ice-cold Kool-Aid.

On particularly hot afternoons when we were tired of playing cards, couldn’t find a banker who didn’t cheat in Monopoly, were too sticky for Twister and too bored for Sorry, we’d sprawl out on the cool floor of our shaded back porch to complain about how bored we were while taking turns nagging mom to take us swimming.

This was before central air was a thing, at least in our home, and one of the best ways to feel a breeze was on the backyard swing set, with legs pumping and hair blowing wildly.  If you were lucky, you’d enjoy a cool evening breeze, courtesy of a box fan in a screened window or door.  Or spend a dog day waiting listlessly for the oscillating fan to shoot a brief breeze back your way.  We’d entertain ourselves by speaking through the fan, the spinning blades transforming our high-pitched voices to something low and robotic.

But once refreshed and renewed by the cool evening air, we’d head out at night to catch fireflies in glass jars, and keep them with holes punched through the lids, like living nightlights.  We’d play hide and seek with our neighborhood gang, each trying to make it undetected to home base on the porch without being spotted by whoever was “it”. Or we’d camp out in the back yard, laughing and telling spooky stories, staying up most of the night. Backyard fireworks helped us celebrate the 4th of July, and we only ever had to walk a few houses away to gather enough players for a game of kickball or spud.

We were so bored one day that we made up a game using a three-inch thick catalog, selecting everything we’d need to furnish a house, adding up the cost down to the penny using a high-tech solar calculator.  This was before Crate and Barrel, and long before online shopping, when JCPenney and Sears were the only catalogs around.  On days like those, summer seemed to stretch on forever.  When it finally did end, we were mostly ready to go back when the school year began.   Childhood summers were spent mostly at home with little fanfare and lots of time to dream.

In 2020, it seems like we’ll have the chance to share an old-school summer of sorts with our kids, too,  but with the Internet, a vast array of frozen treats, and way better craft supplies.  I bet when school starts, they’ll be more than happy to return, just like we were.