Saturday, July 31, 2010

Those Were the Days

Fast forward. Years speed by as we charge ahead and life moves on faster, faster, faster, while we acquire more and more. Suddenly, we stop and take a long look in the rear view mirror. Nostalgia takes over as we long for old times. Memories are mined for hidden gemstones. Rewind….

I yearn for evening breezes through the lilac bushes, kool-aid, bomb pops, a run through the yard sprinkler, some-mores, and chasing lightning bugs. I long for a game of hop scotch, jumping rope, and a drink of water from the fountain.  Popping the heads from dandelions, picking violets, a search for a four leaf clover, and the discovery of grasshoppers and monarch butterflies, were but a few of the simple pleasures of summer.

Unscheduled time, with no plans and no expectations, paved the way for many adventures. Mothers maintained the home base as calloused feet hit the sidewalks each morning. Stingray bikes, with banana seats, some of them specially equipped with a basket, horn or playing cards clipped to the spokes, provided further transportation. Food, drink and the occasional band-aid would eventually draw the bicycle crusaders home. Lunch and dinner were served with regularity at the kitchen table and mothers used their vocal chords to call when a tardy vagabond did not report for meals.

Suntans were all natural, as days were seldom spent indoors. There were no scheduled play dates. Impromptu matches of four square, kickball, baseball, and an occasional card game developed in the neighborhood parks, vacant lots and in the streets themselves. Neighborhood tribes roamed free into the evenings for games of hide and seek, also known as “ditch em”, and other forms of mischief.

Imaginations were put to use as items were built, created, and crafted. Each neighborhood found a way to fashion a fort or a clubhouse and a few go-carts, from scraps of wood and other items scavenged from who knows where. Kids will be kids was the unspoken rule and rarely did anyone complain if a few flowers, or a tomato or two were missing from the neighboring gardens.

Clotheslines filled with laundry dotted the landscape and the windows were always open. The neighborhood grocery stores brimmed with customers, including kids clutching shopping lists, with an extra coin or two for a treat of their choice. My favorite was the pop machine with glass bottles of ice cold soda in many flavors. I remember the clink of the coin and the clunk of the bottle and the feeling as I pulled out a bright red strawberry, my usual.

Girls would be girls as our mother’s and grandmother’s discarded clothes, hats and jewelry, became costumes, topped off with necklaces created from colorful strands of pop beads. Cardboard boxes became dollhouses, with empty thread spools for chairs, material scraps and tissues for blankets and curtains, all displayed against the designer crayon drawn wallpaper. The beloved Barbie doll was adorned with stick pin earrings, the ones with the colored ball ends.

Boys would be boys as an old tire became a swing and strips of the discarded inner tube tied to a piece of wood, became a sling shot. Dirt mounds were shaped into villages for matchbox cars and toy soldiers. Empty cans were fastened together with black electrical tape to make cannons as tennis balls rocketed through the air.

Middle class values prevailed as toys and clothes were handed down from one child to the next and a less than perfect item was still considered useful. A doll without arms was still a doll. A car with a missing wheel was still a car.

The wish book provided more fuel for our imaginations. Each Christmas and every birthday a box was unwrapped that contained a new Barbie or Chatty Cathy doll, a chemistry set, a microscope, perhaps a kit to make Creepy Crawlers, or a paint by number set, some Lincoln Logs, an EasyBake Oven, a View Master, an Etcha Sketch or a GI Joe.

An occasional trip downtown with a dollar tucked in our pockets would provide entertainment options with a visit to local movie theatre or to the “Dime Store”, for small treasures such as a Slinky, Silly Putty, Superballs, Clackers, bubble stuff, Playdough, a Mood Ring, a Troll doll, or a tasty treat of Incredible Edibles, candy cigarettes, Cracker Jacks and Bazooka bubble bum..

From all of these excursions, experiments and escapades a few words of experience ring true. Never use a slinky as a collar for your cat. It is not wise to take a test run on a go cart until some form of brakes has been attached. Once you cut a doll’s hair it will not grow back. Neighbors do not take kindly to holes in their clothing from any “stray” bb shots that come from the bushes and the right combination of  chemicals will definitely cause an explosion. Police do show up when enough fireworks are set off in the backyard and laughing while drinking soda will cause it to come out of your nose.

Every generation looks back fondly on years gone by and perhaps Archie Bunker said it best. Those were the days!
                                           Archie and Edith Bunker's Theme Song.


Anonymous said...

I think Random House should sign you up for some great novels!!!

Turning 50 said...

So sweet of my husband to leave the preceding anonymous comment don't you think?