Monday, June 14, 2010

Oh, Those Summer Nights....

It's back to work tomorrow for me after a nice long weekend. I'm currently watching three boys, probably around age nine, wheel their bicycles down the street, candy in hand, chatting casually as they stroll. For them, it's summer. There's no school tomorrow and even though they probably have to be in at a certain time, chances are that tomorrow they'll wake up and have another lazy summer day.

I miss those days. When I was in England as a child, our summer holidays were only six weeks long but that seemed like an eternity when it started. I remember waking up, the dew on the grass, not having to do anything resembling a scheduled activity. If my mum didn't have anything planned for us, I'd either spend the day reading or, if I felt like being social, I'd go around a friends and we'd while away the day doing very little of any consequence.

We lived on a crescent street which meant it was basically an open ended semi-circle. In the evenings during the summer holidays, all the kids who lived close by would gather on the communal grass outside the houses and we'd play games like Red Rover or clockworks or "It" (which is what we called 'tag' in England). Sometimes, we'd play cricket or football (aka soccer) or we'd make up games of our own. Since the summer evenings in England are much longer than they are here, it would sometimes be almost 10 p.m before it got fully dark but most of the time we were all summoned in by our respective parents just as the sun started to go down and the shadows grew longer.

Those were great days, full of ease and freedom. There were a core group of kids who'd play in the evenings- I was usually one of them along with my older brother- but other kids would join us when they were allowed. Some would also live on our street, others would be our friends from other streets. Regardless of who played, it was, as so often it seems to be when reflecting on childhood, an idyllic time.

Seeing those boys wheeling their bikes takes me back to those times. The cool of the night would be falling as we'd be going to bed. When I was too young to really play games on the street, I'd have to be in bed by 8:30 p.m. and some nights, it was still fully daylight out which made it very hard to sleep.

Nowadays, even when the days are long as they are now, the freedom that came with youth has vanished a little. As an adult, I get to make my own choices about bedtime as well as more important choices such as: Do I dare try to wire my own ceiling fan or should I wait for my dad? (answer: wait for dad). I get to choose my own meals and clothes and pretty much everything in my life. I have freedom over my life but it's not the same type of freedom found in those lazy summer evenings where sometimes all we'd do is lie on our backs and look up at the clouds to see what we could make out in their billowy forms.

I still do that on occasion although it's harder now. For one thing, I have to worry about if the grass is too long to lie on and, if it is, I have to mow it. Also, I have two puppies that can't resist a face dive if they seem me lying down within reach. I still look up at the clouds and I still can find shapes but it's not the same as lying on an English patch of grass, head to head with my friends and trying to out-cloud one another.

In some ways, I do envy those boys outside with their bikes. It would be nice to have the summer off without commitment until school starts creeping its way back into their consciousness at the beginning of August.

But in other ways, I can't help but feel glad that I'm through the adolescent years ahead of those boys and living my life the way I want. It's a tradeoff, I supposed- the granted freedom of youth vs. the earned freedom of adulthood. Being an adult is not a bad thing at all.

Of course, it doesn't mean I wouldn't say no to a summer vacation.

Happy Wednesday!

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