A childhood summer

When school let out for the summer, the first thing my childhood friends and I did was — play school! Was it just us, or was that a thing? Do kids still do this, I wonder? We’d gather on the front veranda with our pencil cases and exercise books, fight over who got to be the teacher, and class was in session.

“Why do you want to play school? You just got done with it!” my mom would ask in puzzlement. Why? I have no idea. It just cried out to be done, and it felt like fun for a day or two until the novelty wore off. Ah, the lazy hazy crazy days of a childhood summer. They stretched endlessly, or so it seemed in June.

In the summer, we went barefoot. Talk about being grounded to Mother Earth. My sister and I had friends living across the street. The gravelled street. In order to play together somebody had to brave the moat of pointy rocks. “Ouch. Ow! Oww-oww-oww!”, we’d exclaim on the first few crossings, until our soles toughened up. Then the city oiled the road to keep the dust down. Our feet adjusted to that better than my mother did. “Quit traipsing through the kitchen with that %&#* stuff on your feet!” And it was into the backyard kiddie pool to try and wash it off.

Summer fun was incomplete without that other natural element: water. Cold water. Lake cold. Swimming pool cold. Lawn sprinkler cold. Icy flippin’ cold! Shoulders shivering, goose bumps over arms and legs, hair dripping, we’d towel off before basking in the sun to dry. Beach sand, attracted by the H2O, clung to spaces between toes, clumped onto hair, and migrated to the inner recesses of ears, belly buttons, and other assorted crevices, until you shed your bathing suit and showered the grit away. Or tried to.

Then there was the wind. In your hair. While coasting on a bicycle, fast, down a l-o-o-ng slope, no hands, feet up on the handlebars. Until you crashed. But that’s a story for another day. Now back to the wind… and that experiential connection with earth’s atmosphere, not unlike a dog with its head stuck out the car window, ears flapping, tongue licking the highway breeze. Wind in your hair, oh yeah! A trip out of town to pick berries among the pines meant half a dozen kids in the back of Dad’s old Fargo pickup. There was just one catch: we weren’t allowed to stand up. Even so, the drive was so much more exhilarating seated on an old quilt in the open air of a truck bed. Our butts felt every bump in the road, so we felt connected to terra firma whether we liked it or not.

“Summer goes by faster every year” is the kind of thing “old people” in my young life used to mutter over their cigarettes and coffee in the backyard screened-in gazebo, away from mosquitoes, and to some extent pesky kids. I was too busy running through the sprinkler and chasing down the Dickie Dee ice cream wagon to have any concept of what they meant. Now I do.

So bring on the lazy hazy crazies and fill the kiddie pool. It’s time to stick these feet in cold water and chill with Mother Nature, quick, before I blink and it’s Labour Day.

Lorna Blakeney is an avid writer who enjoys photography, history, travel, and genealogy. She was born and raised in Prince Albert, earned a B.A. from the University of Saskatchewan, likes to walk, and loves coffee shops. Her column appears the first Friday of every month.