The moment the last school bell rang, it announced the start of summer. Goodbye school books and school uniforms, hello freedom.
Up until the ninth grade, I wore Catholic school uniforms intended to discourage sin, so summer meant no more confining, white blouses with Peter Pan collars, no more heavy gabardine skirts that hung below our knees, and no more clumsy saddle oxfords. It was time to go native – sleeveless tees, short shorts, and bare feet.
Our sissy feet would toughen up after months of confinement. The white marks the Bobby sox left on our ankles from lack of sun would soon brown up like the rest of us. We bombed all over the neighborhood.
Since we went to bed as late as the grownups, Grandma let us sleep in until nine every morning. We were pretty much on our own most of the day as long as we did our chores and showed up for meals.
Summer days were a time for play, exercise, and discovery, but the evenings were the best. The day would cool down and all the parents came home from work. They brought out lawn chairs and watched us romp until the mosquitoes got too thick.
The neighbor kids and my brother, sis, and I played a succession of games and made up others – Mother May I, Red Light/Green Light, Freeze Tag, Hide and Go Seek. . . . We formed teams and played Front Yard Baseball like pros. Our Sycamore tree was first base, the Ligustrum across the street was second, the Mountain Juniper next door was third, and Mom’s mean, old rosebush was home.
We zigzagged around, chasing dragon flies and fireflies. We hooted and darted catching grumpy bumble bees. We dug up worms and ant lions. We had doodlebug races and confused the parades of ants. We were fearless until it was time to go inside, wash up, and go to bed, then we whined like the kids that we were. We didn’t have air conditioning so we slept with our windows open, the cicadas serenading us to sleep.
On Sunday our fat summer feet refused to squeeze into our patent leather church shoes. Our dress up clothes felt tight and scratchy on our tanned bodies. We laughed at each other (behind Mama’s back) when our hair refused to obey her attempts to comb it into chic, little hairdos.
We dreaded when Mom started loading up with new uniforms and school supplies. It heralded the end of all that fun. Self-discovery and play is a lost art in a society full of electronics. It should be as vital as formal schooling.