You may be looking at this title and asking yourself, "Is this the right date?" Well, technically, summer isn't over. But, for those of us in the education business, summer is indeed over as the next two weeks will see teachers and students alike heading back to the classroom. This, combined with an article I read in my hometown newspaper and an ad I recently saw on TV prompted this week's column.
I never cease to be amazed at my students, when asked if they are glad to be back in school, actually admit they are because they were "'bored." Bored with summer? I don't think, as a child, I was ever bored with summer. There was always too much to do. Have you seen the TV commercial for vitamin D? I wondered why the big deal about vitamin D, until I remembered that it is also called "the sunshine vitamin." A little research confirmed the title I remembered, since vitamin D can be "synthesized in adequate amounts by all mammals from sunlight. It is only called a vitamin when it cannot be synthesized in sufficient quantities" and must be obtained by their diet. It's summer and kids need a vitamin to replace sunlight? How sad. Not when I was a child - how about you?
As soon as all the workers left, my front street ceased being a parking lot and came alive with children - all shapes, sizes, and ages - ready to play. The playground was too far away, so the front street became our playground. The trees were bases for a lively game of kickball. No net was needed to play badminton. There were plenty of kids for a lively game of dodge ball, hide and seek, hopscotch, or freeze tag. We all looked out for each other, yelling "car!" whenever one would dare to drive up the street to interrupt our game and scatter us to the curbs like ants until the intruder passed by.
Not as many kids that day? Not a problem. Smaller groups lent themselves to jacks or "seven-up" between the houses. Jump rope was always popular no matter how many there were. Not enough people to turn both ends of the rope? That's what the trees were for. Tie one end of the rope around the tree and they were always ready to take a turn at turning the rope.
My street had mostly girls, so the porches often came alive with what looked like Barbie conventions. The dolls were as plentiful as our imaginations were vivid. The best doll house - our Keystone dairy milk box, of course. There were clothes and shoes galore, but everyone always knew what belonged to whom. There was never arguing when it came time to clean up.
On particularly hot days there was always the backyard wading pool - provided Dad had a chance to blow it up before he left for work. As we got older, the pool got bigger and didn't need blown up but it did need filled. No pool - how about a sprinkler? Those were the greatest as long as the grass hadn't just been cut. Those grass-covered feet were not fun.
There were days of riding bikes up and down the street or roller skating on the sidewalk. Sharing the key was always expected. And there was always a parent or two sitting on their porches to look out for us as well and provide the occasional squirt of Bactine and a Band-Aid when needed.
It was great fun when the older neighbors' grandchildren would visit. Mary Beth introduced me to Trixie Belden mysteries and Wanda taught me - finally - how to shuffle playing cards both ways. There was also the Goody-Bar man to provide an occasional treat on those hot days.
Suppertime came when the street filled up with cars once again. No more kickball or badminton, but it was great time now for hide-and-seek. As a rule, when the street lights came on, the day was over. Everyone knew the rule and it was nonnegotiable. On special nights, we got to play hide-and-seek after dark. All the kids played, no matter how old they were, and all the parents were out then to keep an eye on things, as well as kindly Mrs. Capellman sitting on her awninged porch watching all the neighborhood goings-on. If it was worth knowing, she knew and she kept us in line.
The article I read prompted many of these memories and mentioned a few I did not share. But what stuck with me was the simplicity of those summer days. We didn't need entertained; we entertained ourselves. We didn't need bottled water or energy drinks, we had - gasp - hoses for drinks and Kool-aid. We didn't need "designer" vitamins, we had the Flintstones and the sun and they were vitamin enough. I don't think we "old folks" turned out too badly in spite of it all.
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Sue Sampson is a longtime columnis for the Parkersburg News & Sentinel.