the short season of youth

 Childhood is a short season  ~Helen Hayes~

A few days ago while driving my ten-year old son to school we stumbled upon the topic of The Unfolding of Life.  I don’t know if it was the tasty little chocolate-glazed Timbits that brought out his philosophical nature that morning, but goodness gracious he seemed so … so … serious as he bemoaned the unfairness of Life as a Fourth Grader and gosh-oh-golly how fantastic the universe will be when he’s An Adult.  Due to the wisdom of many *cough* years of hindsight, I cajoled him that while he doesn’t quite understand it all now, he will most assuredly recall his youth in a very fond, if not somewhat wistful, manner. 

I don’t think he was terribly convinced.  Stupid kids.  Dumb, stupid …  Oh.  Sorry.

Sigh.

As I look back to my 10-year old self, unlike the material things we shower upon our own cherubs, I can’t honestly recall more than a handful of toys that we
1. had or 2. even wanted.  Nor have I ever felt the lack of having had them. 

If memory serves me well, I had a  Barbie, replete with a two-story townhouse and convertible. 

I had Janet and Spunky dolls, although I do have to interject that Spunky was a very scary little creature with red-frizzled hair, freckles, and Mrs. Beasley-type spectacles, and a little blue plastic pool with a spring-loaded orange diving board where they could lounge or swim, as the mood hit them, in their stiff, plastic way. 

I had a hot pink bike, white plastic woven basket with flowers strapped to the handlebars. 

And.  Well.  I’m sure there were other things, but what I remember most fondly about my childhood were the simple things.  Not toys.  Not gadgets.  Not the latest fashion.

The intangible things are what I recall most, that come to me in the camera-eye snippets of an Ordinary Life.  

I remember … playing outside in every kind of weather.  We had no air conditioning as I was growing up, therefore, inside the house was nearly as sweltering as the outdoors in the summer.  And if it got intolerably hot, we walked four blocks to the community pool, paid 50 cents and spent the afternoon paddling around.  In the winter, we donned two pairs of jeans and went down to the park with our sleds.  Snow pants for children were unheard of in my day, although I do have to admit they’re a rather clever invention I would have enjoyed thoroughly then.  Do you know how hard it is to peel off two wet, stiff pairs of jeans when you can’t feel your hands? 

I remember … thunderstorms that brewed on humid, sticky summer evenings.  On those nights, we’d align our beds near the screened bedroom window, prop our pillow onto the sill and lay there quietly in the dark, watching the distant lightning, waiting for the cool rain. Today, with the convenience of air conditioning … to wit I will go on the record saying I loves me my air conditioner … I think we miss the effects of nature, the changes, the smells and sounds when we’re locked up in an air-tight house.  I think there’s something to be said for feeling like one is part of a Bigger Scheme of the Universe.

I remember … walking to and from school every day, regardless of the weather. I often tell my son (who has to be driven the 6 miles daily) that I most fondly remember that time in the morning after eating breakfast, when you marched off the porch, met up with your friends, and walked the few blocks to school.  It was a time to breathe in fresh air and move before you were plunked into your hard wooden desk and forced to sit quietly all day. 

I remember … going to the library.  Often.  To this day, there is nothing that stirs up more vivid sentiment for me than smelling old books.  When the librarian isn’t watching, of course.  I am not a freak. I swear.  I don’t know if it’s the stillness of a bookstore or library, the vastly immense knowledge the bookshelves hold, or the peace I feel there that I love the most.  Or maybe it’s just the Whole Enchilada.

Speaking of enchiladas …

I remember … the meager times we ever had fast food.  I will admit I can be a Very Bad Mom and take my children to Taco Bell more often than a Good Parent should.  As a child, however, I remember fast food was a treat … a reward for doing something special, maybe for something as simple as not acting like a wild banshee in the grocery store.  Not that I would have ever done that.  Yes, contrary to what my mother might tell you.  And fast food was never served in buckets.  A serving of fries was a wee little envelope.  A burger tucked nicely into a 10-year old’s paw and didn’t require a crane, 13 napkins, and a warning from the Surgeon General.

Ah yes.  If only my little one could spend one solitary day as an adult.  Just one day shouldering the responsibilities of a family, a job, laundry, housework, paying the bills, planning, organizing and carrying out Life in General.  Did y’all notice I didn’t say cooking?  I cannot tell a lie and pretend like I do said task. 

Anyway.

I think 24 hours of being An Adult might sober the child right up.  I know that in recollect, I wish my mom would’ve knocked the stuffing out of me every time I said ‘I can’t wait until I grow up!’.  Because quite frankly?  I feel like knocking the stuffing right out of myself.

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