It's officially summer now, but here in Bakersfield summer started early with a few days in May of extra hot temps and has been going full strength ever since.
I think summer is much more enjoyable when you are a kid. Long lazy days of no school, running through the sprinklers (wishing you had an actual pool in your yard), eating popsicles, wearing shorts and flip flops, and waiting for the sound of the ice cream truck. It's not so much fun when you are an adult and watching your electric meter spinning around like a roulette wheel because you've had the a/c cranked up full blast.
Most of my summer memories are from the grade school days when we lived in Maryland. I know it gets hot and humid there but I just don't remember being sweaty and uncomfortable, I remember getting your first pair of dime store flip flops and having the space in between the piggy that went to the market and the one that stayed home being rubbed raw by the new unyielding flip flop plastic. Or how about the first time you run in those new flip flops and you trip and the front folds under and you scrape your big toe on the sidewalk concrete? Or you're riding your bike and scrape that same big toe on the street as you're furiously pedaling to catch up with your friends. I think the first month of summer was spent with huge oozing sores in between our toes and on the tip of our big toes.
Then there were swimming lessons at the big pool-can't remember if this was a community pool or a 'member's only' country club type pool, but I do remember how big the pool seemed to me with it's acres of cool cool sparkling water, the hundreds of lounge chairs with those big plastic stretchy strappy things that you sat on-put your towel down first so you don't burn yourself on that hot plastic-the acres of green lawn and trees that surrounded the pool, and that peculiar smell in the locker rooms. After swimming lessons it seemed like we spent days and days at that pool, all calling 'mom mom watch me watch me!' as we showed off our new swimming lesson skills to our mom.
Then there were the diving boards-the equivalent of a thrill ride to a kid that's just learned to swim. Did you really want to try the high dive this year? My friend and I climbed up there many times only to climb back down again after seeing the waters of the pool miles and miles down there in the distance.
And the best part was the snack bar where if you were good you could get an ice cream bar or ice cream sandwich, but you had to wait an hour after eating before going back in the pool! (So you wouldn't get stomach cramps and drown.)
Our yard was one of the best yards for playing in. Directly behind our back yard-no fences or anything-was The Woods. Again, I remember the woods as being hundreds and hundreds of acres of primeval forest that you could get lost in if you strayed too far. I have a feeling that these woods were not quite as large as I remember, but they were so much fun for playing secret agent or cowboys and Indians-oh, excuse me, I mean cowpersons and native Americans-in. There was one big huge tree right outside the woods that was the best place for a rope swing or climbing or just digging in the bank under the tree. I remember creating an entire little Flintstones town under that tree by digging little cave houses into the hard dirt and finding rocks to make little roads and fences with, humming the theme song to the TV show the entire time.
We lived in a corner house, which meant that we had the hugest side yard ever-again, probably much much smaller than I remember, but it was a great place to run through the sprinkler, or when summer started getting boring, to have a carnival. I think we had a carnival every summer, inviting the neighborhood kids to come play games like 'knock over the bottles' for a penny.
And then there was the Mr. Softee ice cream truck. This was not one of those trucks that sells the pre-packaged ice cream bars that you see today-usually converted from an old mail truck like the one that roams our neighborhood here every day-no, this truck sold real soft ice cream dispensed from a machine that would swirl it down into a real ice cream cone and you could even get sprinkles on top. The Mr. Softee man even wore a paper hat just like a real soda counter ice cream man. I think he even had a white uniform on.
Summer evenings were the best, playing hide and seek with our friends, only going home when the streetlights came on. That was the signal for all the neighborhood kids, you knew Mom or Dad would come looking for you if you didn't get your butt home when those lights came on. Or, in our case, Dad would whistle for us to come home, like we were a pack of wild dogs. Some moms would call for their kids, and if you ever got tired of playing with someone, all you had to do was say 'I think your mom is calling you!' and off they'd go. It worked well with some of the 'slower' kids but sometimes it would backfire and they'd come back to play, saying 'No, my mom wasn't calling me!'
The best part of our summers on the East coast was getting to fly to the West coast to visit all of our 'California' cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. Everybody else in our family lived in the magical land of California. Our beach cousins lived in a house in a small beach town near San Diego in a house on a hill with an ocean view. They got to go to the beach EVERY DAY and their house was a kid's heaven with the most wondrous toys and games and an older boy cousin who even DROVE A CAR!!
Then, after visiting them we would drive up to our grandparents and cousins houses in Ventura where they LIVED ON RANCHES AND EVEN HAD HORSES!. Grandma and Grandpa's house was also a kid paradise with closets full of games to play with, a dollhouse, and my favorite of all, the fish ponds. Grandma's front yard had four goldfish ponds that were just the most amazing thing to me-imagine, having goldfish ponds in your front yard!
Flying across the country back in the 60's was a lot different than flying today. It was an event to get on a plane and you dressed nicely and tried to behave in a manner becoming a world traveler. I had a Barbie doll that had a stewardess outfit and would make sure she dressed correctly for the trip too. It was okay to call your 'flight attendant' a stewardess back then, and to us, it was a glamorous job for a woman to have. No male stewardesses that I can remember either, the boys were all busy flying the plane. If you were really good you might even get to meet the pilot and he would give you a little metal captain's wings pin to put on your shirt to show that you were a junior captain! I think they even let kids come into the cockpit and look around back in those days. Terrorism was a thing yet to come.
So, summer is just not as magical a time when you are a grownup and have to pay the huge electric bills that result from cranking up that a/c all summer long, but it's fun to watch our neighborhood kids out there enjoying their sprinklers and flip flops and ice cream!