My childhood was one of grass stains and water-gun fights. Of big pitchers of red juice and lemonade, cone-shaped birthday hats and bowls of M&Ms and Skittles. Chalk-covered suburban streets and hide-and-go-seek as the mosquitoes ate you alive. Cookouts with the electric bug zapper snapping in the background. A bonfire glowing in the center of a mismatched circle of plastic and canvas folding lawn chairs. My childhood was playing games using beechnut seeds as currency, and building umbrella forts in the grassy areas between our houses. It was bike rides and long walks around our neighborhood after supper, walking Sadie when she finally came into the picture, walking ourselves before that – settling down – all four of us – as the sun settled into the woods around our neighborhood.
The group of us neighborhood kids would scramble over the area throughout the year – sledding the hills in the winter, sprinting through backyards in the summer. After school was HORSE by the basketball hoop and cops and robbers with the backs of all of our families’ SUVs as the jails around the neighborhood. In the winter, the corner snowbanks would be plowed as high as the lamp posts, and we’d climb them, bundled in our snowsuits, and throw ourselves onto our sleds and shoot down the empty streets – the plow always leaving a perfect, thin-packed layer of snow on the middle of the road like a runway. In the summer, we’d stop at the top of the hill, one kid the lookout at the midpoint intersection, and then we’d race – no feet, down around The Loop and back up, seeing who could make it the furthest before pedaling or falling over.
We’d trek into the surrounding woods in knee-high rubber boots and find old rusty farm equipment when the area was so different so many years before. We’d play capture the flag -and then upgraded the game with walkie talkies once one of our friends got a pair. Water balloons, red rover, inflatable kiddy pools in the summer when it was really hot – accompanied by what seemed like an endless supply of freeze pops. Street hockey with a net from the local sports shop. Kick balls, whiffle balls, footballs, soccer balls. Jump rope, climbing trees, and badminton until someone finally got the last birdie stuck up in a tree.
Then the streetlights would come on, and our parents would call us home, or on the weekends, they’d all gather at one of our houses, and we’d pile in – either molting our snow stuff into sopping puddles in the entryway, or plodding in dirty and sweating, and throwing ourselves onto the furniture or floor to join the adults – no phones in sight.