Monday, June 29, 2009

The Way Summer Ought To Be

by Sophie

School's been out for a couple of weeks and I'm crazy thrilled to have my kids home. I'm not so thrilled about all the driving, arranging, scheduling...the sports camps, the music camps, the reading ahead for fall semester...not even about the charitable project one of the kids is doing (yeah, yeah, yeah, it builds character - um, mine. Moms ought to get the f'ing Eagle badge or whatever it is, just for getting through all the nagging and prodding and encouraging without turning to drink. It is ironic that the project involves something called a "Peace Pole"...conversations about its completion date are far from peaceful...)

When I was a kid, summer was a do-it-yourself affair. My mom didn't work, but I don't believe it ever occured to her that it was her responsibility to amuse us. The first she expected to see of us was dinner, as long as we got our chores done.

Needless to say, that led to a certain amount of creativity.

My favorite summer project was one I undertook with my brother. Mike made a brick mold out of scrap wood, and we started turning out bricks made from Missouri clay dirt. While we waited them to harden to a construction-ready consistency, we got some of the neighbor kids to help us dig a hole in the woods next to our house. If you're familiar with midwestern soil, you'll know that excavating sufficient rocks, roots, and clay and shale deposits to create a hole big enough for four kids to crouch in was a considerable effort. Our fingernails stayed black and our bare feet built up calluses that would send any self-respecting manicurist screaming. Many days later, we were ready to cover the thing with an old piece of drywall boosted from some dad's workshop. We made a bunch of Ritz-and-peanut-butter sandwiches and hunkered down there waiting for the apocalypse.

Drywall isn't really good for exterior walls, as the next storm proved. The bricks - whose possible use eluded us - melted back into mud. We found something else to do.

Fast forward to 2009. I'm knocking myself out to meet my deadlines while my kids turn to Resident Evil Five for company and wait for me to get hungry enough to take them to Subway. Meanwhile, on the other coast, the Best Niece Ever has found her way back to summer as it was meant to be, summer filled with imagination and magic and stories in her head.

Evidently she took a long look at her dad's Shamus plaque and thought to herself....well, this is what she thought up:

And her dad didn't help. He just....let it happen, like parents from the Olden Days.

Today's report from my brother is that my nephew now wants to get in on the action. "The pistol inspired him to make his own: 24 lego handguns, in various colorful colors. He then lined them up on the front windowsill and announced that he was opening his own gunshop."

Ooooh....I'm getting a little misty. Now that's what summer ought to be.


Juliet Blackwell said...

Great post, Sophie! We were always building forts, too, and I remember that once they were done and we ate our crackers and lemonade inside of them, it got boring. It was the construction that mattered, not having it completed. Sounds like a metaphor for the idea of those mud bricks melting back into the Missouri soil, just as it should be.

Sophie Littlefield said...

Hey Julie, just imagine the fort we would have built if we'd met thirty years ago!!!

Rachael Herron said...

I love this. We were all about building stilts as kids, stilts to tromp up and down all the hillsides, under the trees on our way to our secret clubs. I can't believe sometimes that Mom would just shove us out the door and say "See you at dinner!" We'd ramble and she never knew where we were and we were always okay. That's so WEIRD now, isn't it?

Judy H. said...

We built forts and then pestered Mom into letting us sleep in them at night. Now parents would be worried someone would kidnap us out of the backyard, and my nephew has a ready-made "fort" that pops up in ten seconds. Where's the fun in that?

Gigi Pandian said...

I never built forts, but I constructed a detective agency headquarters :)

Unknown said...

Gigi--that is perfect! :)

If only we could find a balance between all that freedom and today's reality.... :)

Sophie Littlefield said...

i just noticed that I think my niece is wearing her mom's shoes (definitely her mom's raincoat) - - must chime in with an aunt-ly awwwwwww! (now that's the kind of BNP - blatant niece promotion - that I can handle! :)

Anonymous said...

Even tho my mom was home for most of my childhood, I also had to fend for myself.I never felt unloved or ignored, tho. Why do we now feel like we have to entertain our children 24/7?
This has inspired me to turn off the TV (starting next week!) and to see what my kids can come up with. :-)

Sophie Littlefield said...

stephanie - you are a brave woman! I'll think about turning off the, can't imagine what sort of demands the kids will make then! :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'll be sure to let you know how that goes! Why don't you let *me* be the canary in this case and THEN you can decide! LOL

Dana Fredsti said...

AH me, another post guaranteed to bring a HUGE wave of nostalgia in the best possible way. The picture of your niece reminds me of Harriet the Spy. :-)