As we age, nostalgia seems to take over when it comes to reflecting on our lives. Speaking recently to a couple of longtime friends—people we’ve enjoyed 50+ years of relationships with—they had to agree and our conversation suddenly took on an ‘otherworldly’ tone. Just a couple of small prompts was all it took, and we all began waxing nostalgic about summer days and nights from our respective, and shared, youth. Summer holidays from school meant endless hours of recreation and fun for most of us.
Mornings in the summer were spent doing chores and then the rest of the day was free. Free to do pretty much anything we wanted.
The best was to go pick raspberries up the road on a vacant lot early in the day, then play a pick-up game of baseball down at the school before the heat set in. When the day got scorching hot, someone’s mom would put out a blow-up swimming pool and all the neighbourhood kids would pile into it or run through a lawn sprinkler—the water an icy shock—and cool down. We’d be served cold thirst-quenching watermelon slices and compete with who could spit the seeds furthest.
When the ice cream truck came jingling down our street, we’d beg for change to buy an ice cream cone or a popsicle or even better, in my opinion, an orange creamsicle with a collectible Hanna Barbera plastic figurine inside. Scooby Doo!
There were an infinite number of games of tag, hide and seek, Mother May I Cross the River and Red Rover played. Cops and Robbers featured, too. And chase.
Boys outfitted in baseball gloves played catch and goofed around with their plastic army men and Dinky toys in the sand pile. Girls played with skipping ropes, dolls and did each other’s hair. Backyard badminton sets and netball were put up. The competition was fierce.
We made trips to the local community centre to swim or, if we were lucky, went to a family cottage or that of a friend and swam to our hearts content. We might even have learned to fish, row a boat or paddle a canoe. Better still, to waterski!
Summer, as we got older, meant many of us experienced our first crush on a cute boy or girl in the neighbourhood gang or at day camp (or ‘real’ overnight camp if their family could afford to send them away for a week or two).
We made forts in the back yard out of blankets strung over the clothesline, ingeniously anchored into the lawn with steak knives. We’d fill it with the seat cushions from the living room couch and a few beach towels and pillows. Many a discovery took place inside those forts…
When our parents insisted that we “get out of the sun,” we retired into the shade to do colouring, painting or make Play Doh things. Mostly, I ate the Play Doh. There was always a jigsaw puzzle on the go on the back porch table to work on too when we were supposed to be “resting.”
We could play outdoors all day long and only come home when the streetlights came on.
It was bliss.
Crickets chirping in the dark, the eerie call of a loon on a lake. Heat bugs buzzing themselves to sleep.
The waft of campfire smoke and the scent of weenies as we cooked them skewered on the perfect stick we’d whittled from a green branch of a maple tree. Then the marshmallows, cooked to an almost flaming torch, the gooey sweet innards oozing everywhere and singeing our lips as we blew them out to cool them down before we, in turn, hoovered them down. All the while, taking turns telling ghost stories and scaring the bejabbers out of each other or our kid sisters and brothers.
Parents left us to our own devices most of the time. Everyone’s family knew each other, so we were generally pretty safe as we roamed around playing night games and spooking ourselves out when long monster-like shadows were cast beneath a huge summer moon. And then there were the stars: we’d lay down on the lawn and gaze up at them and make wishes and wait to see shooting stars – all the while batting away mosquitos and singing campfire songs.
Oh, did I mention the most nostalgic summer sound of all for me? The sound heard, in the cool of the evening, of someone’s dad mowing the lawn with a rotary push mower. Snippety, clickety, snippety clickety, snip – the smell of the newly mown grass filling the humid air.
Summer as a youngster seemed to go on forever. Long days filled with adventures and fun and then bam, out of nowhere, it was “back to school” time, and summer was over. But the memories? They’ll last a lifetime!