If you took a few moments to think back to your own childhood summertime, what is it that you would recall? I began to ponder this and asked my friends. They surprised me with answers rather similar to my own.
I remember being outside to feel the dew light upon the blades of grass every single evening. It always invoked a sense of magic, for one moment it wasn’t there and then the next moment it was. Playing until you couldn’t see any more, your friends mere silhouettes against the sky, for the light had faded completely past dusk into night.
I remember being barefoot at all times unless you had to go to the store, and then you wore ‘jellies.’ They weren’t comfortable and left impressions on your hot, swollen feet but they were pretty and made you feel pretty, too.
I remember Japanese beetles colliding with my face mid flight as I succumbed to the day and walked home, wondering why beetles from Japan were here in America. (But that was before the days of Google when you could answer any question with the flick of your fingers).
I remember playing in the dried out and abandoned cornfield behind our house. The mud would crack into patterns and we pretended it was food. One time I insisted I had a brownie and my little sister ate it.
I remember riding my bike up-and-down and up-and-down our gravel road. No helmets, gloves, or kneepads. Racing to the top of the steep hill at the end, like it was a mountain. Practicing riding without your hands and trying to pop the biggest wheelie from the potholes. The sensation of the tires sliding out from under you, slipping on the loose rocks. Sometimes we rode all the way to the gas station and bought some ice cream with coins we found in the couch.
I remember pretending to be Little House in the Prairie in the woods across the road. We each had a ‘house,’ which was a different pine tree. My neighbor and I fought over who got to be Laura instead of Mary. Climbing the pines as high as we could until the trunks were too thin to bear our weight, pushing up against that border of sanity you only find in childhood. Returning to the ground with hands sticky from pine sap. My neighbor had a circular above-ground pool and we fought over who got to be Ariel, too.
I remember catching lightning bugs and filling mason jars to brimming, holes punched in the lid with a nail, losing five for every new one you tried to place in the jar. Smearing the glowing goo on our arms like war paint. Going to sleep with the repetitive glow next to your bed, with some grass for good measure. The stink the next morning when most of them were dead.
I remember endless hours spent on the “Rock Pile” in the fields surrounding my grandparents’ house. Huge boulders formed various ‘houses’ and we created different worlds there, complete with furniture and ‘rock’ electronics.
I remember wading in the creek in the frigid water, chilled from melting snow high up in the mountains. Smooth rocks under our feet, rough edges worn from eons of water running past. Finding little pockets of deeper water and pretending to really swim. Sunburns on my cheeks and tops of my shoulders.
I spent my summer every year outside and carefree. Like Lord of the Flies. Drinking koolaid and eating freezie pops. Pushing our bodies to limits, learning what it meant to risk. I have no memories of my parents even being present.
The funny thing is, even though this is how I spent my childhood summers and how the majority of my peers spent theirs, this isn’t the kind of summer we are providing for our own children. We are funneling them through summer camp after summer camp, forced reading, and endless scheduled sports and activities to fill the hours.
We are not allowing them to experience the blessing of boredom, that unlocks a door to the imagination, creativity, and initiative in our minds that no other key can open.
Whether it be driven from a fear of not giving our kids the competitive edge they need to thrive in this dog-eat-dog world or from a place where we don’t know how to merely enjoy each other’s company without an agenda, we deny these young souls the gift of this fleeting time in their lives when the burdens of responsibility don’t yet lean on their shoulders.
If you fondly remember your childhood summers, may I ask you why you’re giving your own children such a different one?
Carey Pace is a Natural Light Documentary Photographer and blogger who believes that beauty waits to be uncovered in the ordinary moments of everyday life. She chases creative motherhood, honesty and authenticity in her writing, and images that tell stories. She has an ability to capture the essence of her subjects, showing the reckless abandon of childhood. Her images are alive with both motion and detail. She lives in Virginia but her heart is always ready for a new adventure.
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