After a week of graduations and celebrations of the end of the school year, I’m taken back to my own school days.
When June arrived, I couldn’t wait to be free for the summer. Although I loved school, I looked forward to spending three months with my friends.
I remember waking to the scent of lilacs drifting into my bedroom with the warm summer breeze. They weren’t supposed to grow in our area, but my dad was an amazing gardener, and he planted the bush. It bloomed every year, long after he died. So did the sweet peas he planted. Each year, he saved the seeds at the end of the season to plant the following year. Several years after he died, Mom pulled up all the volunteer plants and threw them over the back fence. But those stubborn flowers didn’t die. Instead, they came up on the other side every year for as long as I can remember. Both sweet peas and lilacs are among my favorite flowers. They remind me of Dad.
We had lots of kids our age on our block, so we had no problem finding someone to play with. When we were small, we roller skated up and down the sidewalks. One year, we used chalk on Diane’s driveway and garage to create a roller rink.
When we got a little older, we rode our bikes to the park where we did crafts, played tennis, and swam in the swimming pool. We often took picnic lunches and ate at the covered tables. We sat beneath the trees on the hill and rested or read.
I spent many hours in the shade of the willow tree in our front yard reading. When the other kids ran around in the heat of the day, I searched for a cool spot. I have never been able to spend much time in the sun. My fair skin has always burned and peeled or burned and blistered. But books were my escape. Through them, I could travel to other locations and meet new people.
One summer, a Sharon’s grandmother taught us to play canasta. We played every day that summer at one house or another. The tournament continued the next summer. I wish I still remembered how to play, but unfortunately I’ve forgotten.
One time, we had a snack stand. We sold hot dogs and other food from our kitchen window. My mother was painting the bathroom that day, and I still can’t believe she allowed us to do this. I’m sure the supplies probably cost more than we made.
As the afternoons cooled, we took to the streets. We played Red Rover and other team games. At dusk, we played ‘Ditch,’ a variation on tag. We could hide anywhere in the front yards on our side of the street. ‘It’ stayed near a streetlight and counted to 100. We each waited, hardly breathing until ‘It’ left the streetlight. Then we ran to the streetlight and tagged home.
We stayed out until a parent called their children home for dinner. Several adults had distinctive whistles. As soon as the first of the kids went home, our game broke up.
We often had sleep-overs with our friends. Sometimes we slept outdoors under the stars.
Our parents didn’t have to worry about where we were because we congregated at one house or another. Most mothers stayed home, so an adult was always present. They were friends, so everyone knew where we were and what we were doing.
Looking back, we had an ideal Norman Rockwell-type childhood. Our lives at home may not have been perfect, but our neighborhood was a safe place with families who cared about us.
By the time September rolled around, I was ready to return to school, although lots of my friends were not.
How did you spend your summers? What are your favorite memories?