The summers when I was old enough to have a bicycle and a bit of freedom—but young enough to not yet know the turmoil of puberty—stand out as the highlights of my childhood. I think of those times while walking on the hill above a park in Tacoma. Floating up to me in the evening air, come the quintessential sounds of summer—a bat hitting a ball, distant cheering, whistles and applause.
In spite of my life lessons in physical work and responsibility, I enjoyed plenty of afternoons on an old quilt spread under a tree, reading my beloved library books, my mind in another world. I can still feel the soft cotton against bare suntanned legs and hear the leaves rustling above my head. I had time to daydream, look up at clouds and imagine what their shapes suggested.
We had a great homemade swing set, and we improvised other play equipment from such things as a couple of old oil drums and some long 2x12 planks of lumber. These could become everything from a “teeter-totter” to the tight rope in a circus act. We hung old blankets over the board to make tents, and used it to make a safe path through blackberries thickets, flopping it down through the brambles to part them, since the sweetest, juiciest and biggest berries always seemed to grow in the center.
|That's me in the back, my brother Bruce with the hat, and some little girl named Debbie |
sitting in the kiddy car I had regretfully outgrown. I wish I had that car now.
We ran barefoot and stepped on bees, fell down and got bruised and scraped, played kick-the-can and croquet on the front lawn, drank lemonade out of brightly colored aluminum tumblers, and ate Popsicles Mom made herself in Tupperware molds. There were trees to climb, bugs to catch, bikes to ride, and camps to build. Across our hayfield the dirt path to the neighbor kids’ house was well worn and trampled hard, as children and dogs ran from one yard to the other all day long.
I look back and remember these summers as rich and enriching experiences, that had much to do with shaping the person I now am. Left to our own resources and imaginations we learned to think creatively, get along with each other, appreciate nature, believe in the possibility of anything we could dream, and that life was meant to be joyful.
It’s a nice Northwest summer day, but the kids are still in school. Their summer won’t be quite like the ones I remember, but I hope at least some things haven’t changed. I hope they play more outside than inside, scrape a few knees, get dirty, and that little freckled faces still grin as they stretch out grubby hands to give a smiling mother a bouquet of weeds. Have a dandy, dandelion summer!
All photos and text Copyright 2012 Candace Brown. Please do not use without permission.