When I was a kid, my friends and I were outside all day long in the summer. After breakfast I was out the door and into the summer sun where us kids decided what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it.
We were old enough to leave the yard but not old enough to have a summer job. This is a glorious and brief time in a person’s life. Those years between your mother’s apron strings and sliding into the work world. The ‘Tom Sawyer’ summers, I call them. Days spent outside, barefoot, with no keys, money or phone to carry. Days that were simple.
My family lived on the edge of a small town. On one side of the house was town, only a few blocks from downtown. The other side faced bean and corn fields. We were a block from the train tracks and half a block from the feed mill. Only two blocks from the sales barn, I could hear the cows bellowing every Tuesday night as I lay in bed.
There were about a dozen nice, fun girls and boys in my neighborhood to play with. We all wanted the same thing which was to make the most of the summer vacation before school started. We only went inside our homes to eat meals. Snacks were rare and eaten outside. Maybe a homemade popsicle, cookie or a measuring cup of raisins. There were plenty of berry patches, apple and plum trees and rhubarb in our yards if we wanted. When it rained we stayed outside unless it was a storm. As soon as a storm was over we were back outside in the puddles.
Our days were filled with baseball, putting on plays, parades, running under the sprinkler, chasing around and spending lots of time on swing sets.
We rode our bikes on the dirt streets on our end of town. Sometimes we’d run through the bean field to explore a forgotten old farm house. One girl, who had a playhouse, would bring a record player out on their front steps so we could dance to 45s like “These Boots Were Made For Walkin”. Sometimes we’d just sit and watch the ants while we talked about every subject under the sun. If it was too hot to play we’d count cars. But everything we did was outside. If we wanted to color we’d bring the coloring books outside. The thought of being inside was just wrong and I’m sure our mother’s didn’t mind.
We were outside every minute of daylight from the first day of summer vacation to the last. Each sunset, one by one we went home knowing that tomorrow we’d meet again for more fun. By the end of the day I was head to toe dirt. By the end of the summer I was tan and skinny and my feet were callused from being barefoot for months.
I don’t very often see kids playing outside these days. Times have changed. I remember the old timers telling me when I was a kid, that they had to help with housework or the barn when they were kids and had little time to play. I felt sorry they grew up that way but glad I lived when I did. Sure, I had a few small jobs around the house but for the most part I was a free agent. Those wonderful unscheduled days before I had to get a summer job are some of my best memories.
Such freedom and peace of mind back then. No shoes, no worries.
My plan is to know this type of living again. So, the first day of my retirement will be on a summer day so I can take off my shoes. By the end of that summer I’ll be tan and skinny and still barefoot.