You know you’re getting more mature (that is a synonym for older) when you think back on the summers of your youth and how today’s kids are so different.
My summers always started when school was out. I tried on all the clothes from the previous summer to see if any fit. Generally not, so Mother took me shopping for the same things year in and year out: a new pair of flip flops, new shorts, new tops and a new pair of Keds. Before I was a teen, tops were usually blouses that buttoned. Later, they were knit tops, more like blouses than today’s tee-shirts.
We packed them into a hardsided suitcase with odd clasps and put the single suitcase in the back seat of her car. I had a bag of books, some lined tablets for writing, some plain white tablets for sketching, pens, pencils and colored pencils. We would drive several hours from our house in the Los Angeles area to my aunt’s place in the high desert near Victorville.
And there I spent many summers as a free-range kid.
Mornings dawned hot and sunny. And dry. The desert is dry. No humidity! My cousin and I would heard out after breakfast into the desert either on foot, on bikes or on burros. Not donkey, but real desert burros. We’d often spend all day outside, only coming back to the house at mid-day for lunch and shade. After the peak of the heat, back we’d go for a second round.
We dug forts. We caught chipmunks and made them pets. We learned how to kill a rattlesnake, although more often than not, we practice avoidance. Things like never climbing up on or jumping off a pile of rocks, because that’s where most of the snakes sunned themselves. We learned never to brush up again cholla cacti, because one time having the spines dug out of a hand or foot was enough. They get their nickname of “jumping cactus” justifiably. One brush and you’re loaded with spines.
We had hundreds of square miles to play in. No adult supervision. No worry about being kidnapped. Just play and keep healthy.
Contrast that with today. Same shopping trips at the beginning of summer. Probably some of the same things to keep a busy kid occupied. Electronic screens (cell phones, game consoles, tablets, etc.) keep kids indoors. Parents don’t let kids run free. Kids would never be left to themselves in hundreds of square miles of desert. Kids probably wouldn’t be allowed to ride burros or dig forts or avoid rattlesnakes.
I’m old enough to miss “the good old days” when life was lived outdoors, and parents trusted us to come home safely. This is not to say that evil wasn’t out there. It was, but it doesn’t seem to have been so pervasive. Maybe we didn’t know it was out there. If that’s the case, I fondly remember being kept in the dark and left in the sunlight to play.
What about you? What do you miss most about childhood?