I was recently having a conversation with a fellow Baby Boomer, and she began the all-too-familiar story about how she would leave her house in the morning during the summer and show up again when the street lights went on at night. Baby Boomers all tell the same story, even if it isn’t exactly true (at least for me, because even at age 7, I wasn’t about to miss a meal).
Still, the concept of playing outside all day long rings true. I always attributed it to living in a small town where everyone knew everyone else, but this particular friend grew up in the Bronx. Endless summertime outdoor play was a universal truth.
As I watch my grandkids and great grand-nieces and nephews with their technology, and their parents’ nonstop efforts to monitor the usage, I can’t help but compare their free time with mine. What exactly did we do with our time in the summer when we had seemingly endless freedom?
Well, I know we played with our neighborhood friends, many of whom went to St. Bonaventure Elementary School, as did the Gloor kids. We played tag; we played dress-up; we splashed in our little backyard plastic pools; we played with our dolls. Heck, I recall considerable time laying on our backs in the thick green grass of our back yard, chewing on a blade of that grass, looking at the blue sky, trying to make out animal shapes from the ever-changing clouds…..
Three neighborhood buddies swimming in a backyard pool. I’m the bathing beauty in the middle.
Jen’s granddaughter just got an American Girl doll. Kaiya and Mylee both had American Girl dolls. I can’t speak for Lilly, but I don’t think either Kaiya or Mylee spent much time with those dolls, or any other dolls. Kaiya would rather write or draw and Mylee would prefer Legos any day of the week. I don’t recall ever seeing Addie, Dagny or Maggie Faith with a doll either. In fact, the one doll we gave Addie when she was very small was one we purchased on our first cruise to the Caribbean Islands. It was a rag doll, and she took one look at it and literally tossed it over her shoulder in disgust. I’m pretty sure she rolled her two-year-old eyes.
I, however, loved playing with my dolls. I had several Tiny Tears dolls, because I would wear one out. She didn’t talk or walk, but if you gave her a bottle, she cried tears. Or at least was supposed to do so. I loved her, though admittedly, when I look at her now, she seems pretty scary. She can now be purchased on Etsy for a mere $245…..
I remember secret meetings behind our garage with my best neighborhood friend Kathy. She coached me as I wrote Kris+Mike forever with permanent marker on the garage wall. I was in first or second grade. Alas, while the ink was permanent, Kris and Mike were not, not the least because he never even knew I liked him. Young love.
As I approached what they now call Tweens, my free time was spent shopping with my best school friend. I would walk 15 minutes downtown without a single complaint so that she and I could walk through the stores, thumbing through the hanging clothes, unfolding the shirts and pants, and probably driving the sales ladies insane. Because, of course, we never, ever bought a single thing and they had to fix our mess. At some point in our shopping, we would take the mandatory ride on the only downtown elevator located at Schweser’s Department Store. Our shopping always ended with a couple of fountain Cokes at Woolworth’s or Tooley’s Drug Store.
I don’t know if the Olden Days were any better because POLIO and SCORCHING HOT SLIPPERY SLIDES. Still, I don’t think I would exchange my childhood for my grandkids’ what with their play dates and iPads.