Well, I don’t know how it is in your neck o’ the woods, but it seems as though summertime has arrived in Florida. It’s HOT!

It’s funny in an odd sort of way, but when I was a little kid, I used to count down the minutes to summer vacation, the way adults count down to their measly two week vacation from the drudgery of the workplace. I LOVED summertime! One of my sharpest memories from my childhood was the last day of school in 1st grade. I never went to Kindergarten, so 1st grade was my first experience with school and my first time away from home without mom, dad, or my brother’s companionship. It was traumatic, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

We only had to attend for half a day on that last day so many years ago (about 43, actually). I can close my eyes and still feel the excitement and anticipation of that last bell ringing. There was laughing and jumping and smiles all around when it finally did ring. I HATED school, so this was such a huge reprieve for me; I can only imagine that it must have felt similar to a prisoner’s parole. It is still etched in my memory as one of my happiest days of my childhood.

For some reason or another, my mother could not pick me up from school that day. She asked another lady, whose son was also in my class, to bring me home. Her son was named Chris. He was my friend. I would like to connect up with him again. His parents still live in the same house they did back then, I just haven’t had the motivation to knock on their door to ask after Chris. I should, though. Hmm… maybe one day. Anyway, Chris was the tallest kid in our class all the way through to 8th grade. I was usually 2nd or 3rd tallest, but poor Chris got all the silly “How’s the weather up there?” jokes and such. He was a good kid; probably became a good man, I would venture to guess.

So anyway, Patsy (Chris’ mom) brought me home that last day of 1st grade. Some of my other neighborhood pals who went to different schools also got home about that time. We all tore our school clothes off and put on our cutoff jeans, t-shirts, and Converse All Star or Keds sneakers and ran out to play. I still even remember what we did that first long, long afternoon of summer. We played our favorite game, War, over at the Katy’s house on the corner. We played all afternoon until we heard our parents yelling or whistling for us to come home to dinner.

Katy and Harry’s house on the corner of my street was an old house; probably built in the early 1900s. It was one of the first houses built in this neighborhood. It sat on two and half or three lots. The house was a old style two-story affair. It looked like an old Southern plantation home, but smaller. It’s still there today. I can see the chimney and the entire second story from the window where I’m sitting right now. It’s been extensively renovated, though. It’s a modern home nowadays. The two extra lots next door to it also have homes now.

When we were kids, those two lots were our neighborhood playground. Katy and Harry used to let us play there. The lots were all overgrown with giant philodendron plants and oak trees. It was a cool place to play War, let me tell ya’. Of course, we played everything there… pirate invasion, cowboys/indians, etc. Whatever the imagination of 60s era boys could come up with. We built forts in the philodendron hedges. We used Harry’s shed as a ship’s cabin or an army headquarters. We even played football and such in the open portion of the furthest lot from the house. We had an oak growing in the center of the field, though. You had to make adjustments to your running/passing game because of it.

It’s sad, but nowadays summertime just means HEAT to me. I much prefer the fall, winter, spring months. We change as we age. Our priorities change. Our bodies change. Fortunately, if we’re lucky, we can still be young at heart. Even though I may be sitting in my air-conditioned house in a couple weeks looking down the block toward Katy and Harry’s old place, I can still be dreaming about that last day of school in 1968.

Have a great summertime, wherever you may be!

Later…

~Eric

Image credits: Soldier boys – from here, copyright owner Ken Steinhoff (see comments below).

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About V. T. Eric Layton

vtel57, Nocturnal Slacker

8 responses »

  1. You’re not violating The Southeast Missourian’s copyright. I shot if for them as a reporter who was paid by the picture on a freelance basis, so I hold the copyright.

    Thanks for including a link back to my site. Most folks who rip me off don’t do that.

    • Hi Ken!

      Yes. I’m a bit of a stickler about honoring copyrights for images and other creative output. I don’t like my own stuff stolen, so I surely try not to steal others.

      I will correct the image credit on that article.

      Thanks for letting me know. Normally, I wouldn’t post a pic like that without definite copyright info, but it was just a perfect shot of what I was feeling when telling this story.

      Thanks,

      ~Eric

  2. Great story…reminds me of my own childhood running around in our big backyard (we had two lots connected that were part of my Dad’s family summer home – which was where I lived from 5 to 12 yrs old). Big old cherry tree back there where we spent much time, and during the even when the lightning bugs would come out, and the folks next door were not down for the weekend, we would all run behind their huge row of cedar trees on the back of their property. Ah, Summer wasn’t nearly as bad in NJ as it is in VA or FL. 😉

    • Yeah, with my own house being on two lots, and the fact that I had the old oak with the treehouse and the tire swing, and a half-court concrete basketball court in my backyard; my yard was the neighborhood playground when we weren’t down the street at Katy and Harry’s place. 😉

  3. Dick Krohn says:

    Nice story Eric. I did the same things as a kid. You are very fortunate to live is the same area you grew up in. I haven’t seen my old stomping grounds in 30+ years and then only for a day or so. Being able to look out your window and see something from your childhood is a very nice thing.

    • Absolutely, Dick! It’s cool in many ways to still live in the house that my father built with his own two hands in the same neighborhood that I spent my youth in. That was a common thing for centuries; that children (at least some of the siblings) ended up retaining possession of the family home. That doesn’t happen too much these days, I’m afraid.

  4. We didn’t have kindergarten in Arkansas around that time either, so I went straight to 1st grade.

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