I just realized that summer is almost over. It went by so fast, but doesn't it always seem that way? Anything that feels good always seems to slip away too quickly. Like those last few moments of a breathtaking sunset, the ones that pull your attention away from whatever it is that you are doing. You stop, and you're mesmerized as you see it disappear into that small sliver of warmth, and then it's gone, forever. Not sunsets, but this sunset, no two are ever the same, just like this summer, it is unique unto itself, as it should be.
I find that my children spend their summers so differently than we spent ours.
When I was a kid, we didn't have a pool and we couldn't go out and buy that cool Slip 'n Slide that we were in awe of during the commercial breaks of our Bugs Bunny cartoons. But all was not lost, there was fun to be found everywhere and we were not to be stopped in our pursuit of it, as well as some much needed cooling off.
We took large plastic trash bags, cut them open and made a track that we could fling our bodies on as the garden hose streamed water down the center. Our lawn had a slight slope to it so it was a beautiful thing. It was no less fun just because it wasn't that bright blue color that we saw on television. We laughed and squealed just as loud as any kid whose parents had the money to spend on such frivolity.
There were no beach towels that mom brought out to us, we laid on the warm sidewalk to dry off. I remember how the concrete smelled as I lay there shivering and waiting patiently as the sun and the sidewalk warmed and dried my skirted swimsuit. We tried to make funny shapes on the dry sidewalk, just as kids do in the snow. They were our own version of snow angels.
We also ran through the sprinklers, not automatic sprinklers but we broke out that funny looking contraption that swayed to and fro and wet the lawn from one side and back to the other. Jumping over the sprinkler or under the spray of the cold blasts, we took turns refreshing ourselves.
Mom would bring out huge slices of watermelon to us that she got on her weekly trips to central market in downtown L.A. I remember those crates of fruit she would come home with in the summer. Yes, crates, she had 7 children after all. They were filled with sweet, crunchy green grapes, black, syrupy plums and fragrant, fuzzy peaches.
Sitting on the curb, plunging our little faces into the flesh of red watermelon slices, we would spit those black slippery seeds into the streets because we weren't allowed to eat that mess in the house. There were contests of who could spit the seeds that farthest or highest. Oh, and the scary tales of how you would grow a watermelon in your belly if you accidentally swallowed one of the seeds. Laughing at the very thought of watermelon protruding out of your belly as if you were pregnant.
When we got thirsty after all of our running around, we would drink water from the hose which would inevitably turn into a crazed water fight, and we were wet, again. There was no cooler filled with juice boxes or a refrigerator in our garage filled with a variety of sodas that we were free to pilfer. Mom didn't come out with a beautiful glass pitcher filled with icy lemonade and a tray of glasses. This was real life. It was the hose but if we were really lucky, we might get some Kool-aid, which we absolutely loved by the way.
On our more ambitious days, we would venture to the public pool at the recreation center which was about a mile away. Walking in a group, with friends from the neighborhood, we had our rolled towels with our swimsuits tightly tucked inside the roll and firmly tucked underneath our arms. It was 25 cents to gain entry into the pool. Girls locker room on the right and boys locker room on the left. The locker room floors were always wet and cold and it was a challenge to keep our clothes dry while were changing. We couldn't get into our swimsuits fast enough. We were given these net like bags to put our clothes in and the bag went into a locker. The locker key was on some sort of industrial looking safety pin which you had to attach to your suit so you wouldn't lose it while you were swimming.
The locker rooms were dark so when we walked out to the pool area it was like walking into Nirvana. It was bright, with the sun reflecting off the water and the mass of concrete that surrounded it. There was lots of screaming and splashing going on and you could feel the excitement building and that little bit of anxiety you have just before you plunge yourself into what you know will be icy waters. The pool was rectangular with 2 shallow ends on either side and deep water in the center. You could see the big black letters marking the depths from 3 feet to 9 feet. There was a diving platform in the center with 2 levels. You were pretty amazing if you jumped off the high dive!
Other days, my brothers would take us all down to the wash by Arroyo Seco golf course, over on the nicer part of town. We would all gather up golf balls that went astray and wound up in the wash. We would find as many golf balls as we could because if we could fill up a basket, the golf course would give us a free round of miniature golf!
Collecting glass bottles was also very lucrative, we would get 5 cents for each bottle that we returned to the grocery store, and we filled up shopping carts sometimes. Taking our change to Thrifty Drug Stores, we would get ice cream, 1 scoop for 10 cents, 2 for 20 and 3 scoops for 25 cents. The rest of the money would go to filling up little brown paper bags with as much candy as we could buy with the money that we just made.
So, I find myself at a loss for words when my own 2 kids, who have their own playroom, television, 2 game systems, 3 dogs, Ipods, bikes, Razor scooters, balls, bats, books, puzzles, who live walking distance from parks and the library, tell me, they are bored!
In the pursuit to give our kids a better life, I often wonder if that is indeed what we have given them.
We made our own fun. We would be out of the house from morning til my father stood on the porch at dinner time and whistled. Kids came running from every direction because it was time to come home.
It was sunset and that tiny sliver of warmth was gone again, as was another day of our summer adventures.