Volume XVII, Issue 22 # May 28 - June 3, 2009

Bay Reflections

The Days and Ways of Summer

A lazy day sharing lemonade
and secrets was the initiation
rite into our neighborhood gang.

It’s time to live like a kid again

by Michelle Steel

Mimosa fluff carpets the sidewalk, tickling my bare feet. I’ve given up the battle of thrice-daily sweep-ups. Sitting down next to my frizzed broom, I sigh. Rewinding back to when I was 11, pretending the fragrant, fluffy blooms were part of my imaginary make-up bag, I remember how simple childhood was for me. In that instant, surrounded by pinkness, I was grown-up and play-powdering my cheeks with fluff.

Searching for luck — four-leaf clovers — was a challenge by mid-July, when mimosa blooms carpeted my yard, including my favorite clover field. Still, I’d manage to fill my scrapbook with dozens of my good luck charms.

Summer treasures found outside were bliss to a pre-teen, her siblings and friends. Cattails by the pond, bamboo forts, a lone praying mantis and wild blackberries made our day. Spending lazy days sharing lemonade and secrets was the initiation rite into our neighborhood gang. The mid-day break was going inside to lunch on Velveeta cheese sandwiches and cherry Kool-Aid. Later when dinner beckoned, we‘d try to eat as quickly as possible so we could steal a few more hours before total blackness forced us inside for bedtime.

A sample of my 11-year-old summer to-do list:

• Catching fireflies in a jar.

• Painting our initials with Sally Hanson hot pink nail polish on box turtles backs. When the turtles came back to our garden to munch on tomatoes the following year, we’d re-claim them as ours.

• Climbing the rickety, wooden steps up the tree fort to catch a glimpse into Mr. Ainsworth’s back yard. Neighbors whispered that he’d been accused of murder and almost sent to jail. But he always bought our lemonade, tart, watered down, seeds and all. And the brown bags filled with plump tomatoes from our gardens.

Crossing the Generation Gap

My parental formula remains simple: Fresh air plus exercise equals a healthy lifestyle. But it’s like pulling teeth to convince my teenage boys that playing outside is good therapy. I’ve almost given up hope of convincing my older son that a three-month outdoor sabbatical is good for him. Paintball is the only sport that sends him running outside. My youngest son looks forward to Ecology Camp in New York with my sister for a few weeks every summer. My wish for him: Simple summers like I had growing up.

Like the pleasure of peering under rocks for worms, bird watching, clover picking, stargazing and fishing in a pond. Digging tunnels, complete with bamboo twig bridges and rock forts, I’d play with Matchbox cars for hours. Climbing trees to pick cherries and plums tie-dyed my fingernails from July through September. Crickets and frogs lulled me to sleep each night through open windows.

My boys think I’m kidding when I tell them that not only did I play croquet, I transformed my back yard into a miniature golf course, challenging the neighborhood kids and charging them a quarter to play 18 holes.

They complain when the video game I rent is boring and Why can’t I rent a new one? — at $8 a pop. Then, they whine, there’s nothing to do. My mom would find a hundred things for me to do if I’d said that just once.

This summer, I’d like to live like a kid again. If my kids won’t, somebody’s got to do it. Though certain things — like the taste of my mom’s homemade strawberry ice cream and peach pie — are impossible to duplicate.

Michelle Steel reflects from The Willows, in Calvert County.