Summer is upon us once more and times…they have changed mightily since I was a child. A child who sat at my desk in class and day dreamed about all the adventures I’d get up to once school was done and I was free to run wild all day long. I’ve noticed in my neighborhood that I don’t see kids outside very much…and when I was a child; I spent most of my summer days under the sun. I can only assume that kids today sit indoors in front of computer games or the TV screen or even glued to an iPad. I fear that kids today are too busy focusing on virtual reality and missing the reality right in front of them….
I can attest to the fact that snakes definitely lived in both the lake and the swamp – and yet – the only kids to play with were a bunch of rough and tumble little boys and so when they waded into the swampy waters to hunt wild creatures; well I certainly wasn’t going to be left behind! I spent my summers covered in bug bites and scraped knees…my Mom used to weep, wail and implore me to be more careful because I was going to have terribly ugly legs one day. Somehow both me and my legs managed to overcome all my wild outdoor excursions!
Another fun feature of my childhood home was a canyon of sorts… If you weaved your way through the trees, you’d emerge on the edge of a vast open field that had been left in a bit of disarray after loggers came through, chopped down all the trees and went on their way. The field was largely comprised of dirt and red clay – and near the center was a canyon carved by summer rainstorms! It certainly wasn’t anything majestic or stately, but to a little girl with a friend and some Barbie dolls, it was the Grand Canyon…complete with a spa where mud baths could be applied to both Barbie dolls and the little girls playing with them. The best part of all that muddy adventure? You were sure to get a good spray from the water hose before you set foot in the house again!
If you made the dangerous…perilous trek…okay, really it was nothing – but remember, little minds see things as much grander than they appear…down into the canyon and back out the other side and were brave enough to take the pathway through the trees, the reward was grand! A field that stretched on for miles and in the distance, under the trees – hay bales that had been placed in neat rows – rows that were perfect for allowing little children to leap from bale to bale to their heart’s content! After an afternoon climbing hay bales, there might be a quick trip past the trees and to the edge of the road, where an old shelter built into the side of the hill that was perilously close to falling in was always worth a peek… she (or he) who ventured in the farthest was the winner of the day.
I spent a lot of time every summer with a friend who spent every moment possible outdoors – and so when at her house, I too was outdoors. We swam in the lakes around her house, alluded the black swans living on her property by zipping across levees on her four wheeler and racing breathlessly into the makeshift office before the swans could catch up; laughing in glee when they’d see they were thwarted once again. One summer, we even created a Native American village in a circle of trees in her backyard – she deemed me Pocahontas and she was the friend, Nakoma – we hunted, paddled our canoe “just around the riverbend”, spoke with Mother Willow and if I remember correctly, literally spent the entire day lost in the world we’d created. It was glorious!
Another past time that was; yet again, done outdoors was creating obstacle courses to race through again and again… A participant might start on the porch, race down the steps and hopscotch their way across the step stones…jump over the swings, cross the monkey bars, slide down the slide and then bounce across the trampoline before making a circuit around the house, climbing on the bike and racing up the driveway and back down…only done with your race once you were safely back on the welcome mat. And this could be done any number of ways; enough ways to pass the entire morning without realizing half the day was gone.
I’m sure virtual reality is nice – but I look at kids today and wonder what memories they will have of how they spent their sweet summertime. Will they remember leaping across hay bales, climbing through trees, crawling through culverts and racing against the clock…finishing the day with a long drink of cool water from the hose? Something tells me their memories will be a little bit different and I suppose that’s fine. I have my memories and I’m certainly glad they’re mine.