When we were kids my sister and I would have all kinds of fun during our summers. First off, they started earlier than the public school kids because we went to a private school that was always done the first week of June instead of near its end. That sometimes made for issues when we would go to the Gallery downtown and the guards would want to kick us out for skipping school. It was hard to get across that it was cool, that we were legal so chill out.
Then there was the library. Our nearest public library was down on Baltimore Avenue, which was about 12 blocks away from our street, with the building itself directly across the avenue, so it was fun trying to get over there during heavy traffic. With our mom working every day, though, we had to make the trek on our own once we got old enough to do so. I remember the graffiti on the building more than anything else. It stood out like a beacon, and it wasn’t until much later that I realized it was planned and organized graffiti. Well, most of it anyway.
I recall trips to Dutch Wonderland when we would pile into the old Chevy Nova and rattle our way down the turnpike to a place that in retrospect wasn’t much larger than the block we lived on. But it was like magic, seeing Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, going on all those rides and getting to spend time with our dad. Those are the few memories we actually have with him before the divorce.
Then there were all the mishaps. I broke my wrist one year and my sister spent most of the time it was healing laughing at me. To top it off I got a blue cast that was incredibly difficult to sign with marker, so I didn’t even get to have it decorated like most others I saw. The time I busted my head falling down the stairs at Nana’s house ranks up there too, which also found my sister laughing at me. It seemed like that’s what she spent a lot of the summertime doing, but really it was only those two times, and the laughing was good-natured. At least I thought it was.
And we had our bikes, too, a gift from our Uncle Michael, which allowed us more freedom than a little. We would bike down to Cobbs Creek Parkway, and down Chestnut Street, and even sometimes over to Market Street when we were feeling particularly feisty. With our wooden tennis rackets across the handlebars we would head down to the concrete tennis courts on Cobbs Creek and play all day long on occasion, sometimes even bringing water along to stay hydrated.
The neighborhood kids were around too as soon as they were finally out from school. We would strip down and splash in the hydrant when it was cracked open, running around in our bare feet even though sharp rocks were often a part of the landscape. It was only later when we got back home that we noticed our bleeding feet, and the pebbles sticking to them. My mother was never pleased when we arrived limping back home, but it was pure fun, and summers were for fun.
We went camping sometimes too, and the bugs would eat me alive, either just with the family or with the Pathfinders. I remember some rainy trips when we were expected to build our own lean-to’s out of sticks, logs, and leaves. And camp meeting, when all the SDA churches in the conference would get together up at Pine Forge and live in tents, and cabins, for two weeks. We would run wild on some afternoons with the other kids we could round up, whether we knew them previously or not, and just have a blast, hopping from tent to tent, and from cabin to cabin.
Sometimes, though, we were stuck inside the house for whatever reason, and that was the time for reruns. We didn’t have air conditioning, so we would turn the fans to high, pump up the TV volume, and try to sit as still as we possible could for as long as we possibly could, watching I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver, and I Dream of Jeannie over and over again. One summer I fell in love with the old Superman show starring George Reeves. Later on once we got a Nintendo system we would sit for hours playing Super Mario Bros. and eating Honey Grahams when they were available.
I think back on those days and what I remember most is that we were in it together. When we were at school my sister would sometimes deny even knowing me, but when it was just us in the summers we were partners in everything, from the smallest activities to the largest, from sun up until sun down. It was an amazing time because everything else was pretty much suspended for three months while we indulged whatever whims we wanted. Those packed summer days gave me a connection with my sister that I honestly don’t think I would have had otherwise.
I lived for those summer memories that we made each year, and I can still go back to them whenever I want, whenever I’m feeling nostalgic. Like now.