I loved the Summer in the South as a child. As the last school bell rang for the year, we always made a beeline for the door, ready to tackle all the excitement that awaited! It was the time of year where our imaginations were set free and every day was action packed.
My form of transportation to and from my neighborhood adventures was my beloved bike. I could wear out a set of tires in a skinny minute. I don't know about you, but my bike was magical. A fearless horse that would take me to some amazing, mystical places. There was this one long stretch of road in my neighborhood that was perfect for riding with no hands. Fancy free with not a trouble in the world, I'd lose myself in the moment with arms spread wide open as the wind caught my hair and face just right. I was flying!
Outdoor games were the hit with us. No Xbox or computers. Well, the Atari was pulled out every once in a while. We enjoyed being outdoors. Our gang's favorite games were: Kick the Can, King of the Hill, Red Rover and Hide and Seek.
I can still hear the chant in my head, "Red Rover Red Rover send Jackie right over." With their grips like a vice, I wondered if I could break the chain. It was always fun to crack the code and find the weak link in the line. And if I couldn't? There was always a chance that the human clothesline would bring me flat on my back if not careful.
I was always pretty good at Hide and Seek, but I had some secrets to my skill set. While counting, I would try to peek as the bodies became shadows in the distance which would be my clues of which direction to look. Then near the end of the counting, I would speed up in hopes of catching the glimpse of a late hider. "Ready or not here I come!"
Backyard swing sets were fun but the best were our neighborhood parks. I'm not talking about the ones you see this day and age that are "liability friendly." I'm talking about those with all the hazardous equipment you could think of. A modern mom's nightmare! I loved the giant Mt. Everest jungle gym that you could climb on for days and hang upside until your face turned red from all the blood rushing to your head. Then there was the old merry-go-round. We would have a contest to see who could stand up the longest in the middle before falling down. When the winner was announced, we'd peel ourselves off and stagger off to regain composure. And how about the good old fashion swing? I loved pumping my legs as hard as I could to get as high as the swing could possibly go. Last but not least, there was the massive slide. Ours was so slick it seemed like it could catapult you into the mulch a half a mile away.
By this point in our day, we were thirsty and our stomachs rumbled. We made our way to the door of the house, only to be stopped there. We did not dare enter the house in the shape we were in, nor did we want to sit down and eat. There were more important things to do. As the food was handed to us, we would only take a few bites of a sandwich and a couple of big gulps of drink before returning to heaven. But we would return several times later to nibble on leftovers and drink from the water hose.
As the temps rose in the afternoon, there was a need for some water action. We had our very own makeshift water park in the back yard. The infamous Slip and Slide was always a hit. How come all of us knew not to stand up and walk on it but yet there was always that one friend in the posse that would do it and fall slamming to the ground on their back? For a makeshift fountain, we would turn on the sprinkler, jumping through it time after time. Just as we were nice and cooled down, we would hear off in the distance, a shout from the inside the house to turn off the water. "What??? Come on Mom! It hasn't been on that long!" we would say. But she could see that it had been on long enough for the ground had turned into swamp land and our legs were covered in freshly mowed grass and mud. With some big pouts and heads hung low, we turned it off. On to the next adventure!
"Hark! What's the faint sound in the distance? It's getting closer. " An obnoxious rendition of This Old Man blaring. "Oh my God! Got to go find money! Fast! Hurry Mom I need it! Don't have time to crack the code for my piggy bank." Just in time she tossed it to me. Gasping for breath from chasing the faint song down the road, it was time to order. Making a decision from the hundred options on the side of the truck was daunting! As I stood there bewildered and confused, I could hear the others shout impatiently, "Hurry! Come on! Make up your mind would ya!" "Umm... umm...I'll have the ... ummm... no..." Finally, "I'll have a bomb pop please." After all that work, I never finished it. Between my conversations on the curb with my friends and the heat, half of it melted and ran down my hands and arms leaving the greatest sticky stained arms and mustache mouth ever!
If we were really lucky, a brief thunder shower would come up in the afternoon, to cool things off a bit. As the rain arrived, we would rush to stand in it looking up to the sky reveling in the cool droplets on our faces. The rains would be just enough for some great puddles to form to splash in for a while. Refreshed, we would commence to playing hard for the rest of the afternoon.
We had a tire swing tied high up in a huge oak tree in the backyard of my house that was a hit with all our friends. There was nothing better! After our turn on it, our clothes and the back of our legs would be black as the ace of spades from the tire rubbing off. My favorite was when it was my turn and my friends would spin me around, winding me up like a top and then turning loose. Off to the races I'd go spinning around so fast that my pigtails and legs would whip anyone or anything if they got too close.
In the evening hours as we were slowing down from a full day, we would relax a bit. The cicadas serenaded us with their songs while we watched the sky light up with a wonderful display of fireflies, or as we here in the South call them, lightning bugs. We had fun seeing who could catch the most. I always had a hard time putting them in a jar with a lid. I advocated for air holes and some grass for the others that insisted on their inhumane slow death traps.
As the day came to a close I stumbled to the bed to pass out from exhaustion. Sometimes I'd strike it lucky without having anyone bug me about getting a bath right then, even though it was much needed. The day's grime would be an inch thick on my skin with the addition of more mosquito bites and grass rash. My sleep was always heavy with dreams of the next day and new adventures. Life was good.
For more of my children inspired articles, you may want to read Your Biggest Cheerleader, Through a Child's Eyes, A Mermaid's Memoir and The Secret Garden.
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