Summer ended today. Well, not technically, but when Joe boarded that big yellow school bus this morning, his schedule sure put the kibosh on our lazy days. Don’t get me wrong, he was more than ready to start first grade, but Gwen and I floundered when he left . We wandered around the house like a couple of zombies. I threw myself into cleaning and, in the process vacuumed away the sand that we carried home from the beach yesterday. It was our final hurrah. A farewell to sunshine and giggles.
There was a time when my family had a summer house at Lake George. The magical location of my childhood summer days. I vaguely remember the beach, our boat and feeding the end of my sugar cone to sunfish at the “Old Beach”. Then we moved on to our renovated farm house and let’s just say that summer became a bit more of a solitary existence. No lake and no neighbors, unless you count the kids who lived a mile away in every direction. We did have a tiny little stream running through the horse paddock though. On blazing hot days, we swam in the pool at Hebron Camp. My best friend, Chrissy had a pond and some giant inner-tubes that provided hours of fun.
Mostly, as the youngest of three, I was foisted off on my siblings while my parents went off to work. As a parent, I can’t even begin to fathom leaving my three children alone in the middle of nowhere for hours on end. Yet, it was the 70′s, my sister was teenage-ish and my brother was pre-pubescent, so back then it was A-Okay. Besides, we were really good at coming up with ways to entertain ourselves. For example, that extra “farm car”, otherwise known as the green El Ranchero, was normally reserved for carrying hay bales to horses. But…when grownups weren’t around, it had the magical ability to morph into the General Lee.
Two kids, aged 13 and 8, could easily drive around for hours pretending to be Luke and Daisy in that old beater. And why the hell not? There was no adult supervision!
I clearly remember my brother, his braces throwing off glints of sunshine, turning donuts in the dirt driveway and sending plumes of dust into the air. He’d stop and yell, “Get in, Daisy! Boss Hog is on our tail!” This was my cue to gracefully climb (scratch the shit out of the door) through the window Daisy Duke style, land on the passenger seat and scream, “YEEEEEEE-HAW!” Good times were had by all.
Now that I think about it, I really don’t recall being watched very closely at all. This might explain that time I played with the carcass of a dead woodchuck. I think I saw it get hit by a car…or maybe I just tell myself that it was fresh road kill because that’s just a little less gross than playing with an old dead animal. Either was, it was just wrong. On so many levels. I do recall having the bright idea to prop Chuck up on the side of the road with his “thumb” sticking out. He had places to go.
As I posed him, It struck me that he’d look more authentic with a sign. Within minutes, Chuck was holding a placard emblazoned with the words ”California or Bust”. He still wasn’t complete. As I was tying a red bandana to the end of a stick, a la Bugs Bunny, my brother happened along. Was he disgusted? Absolutely not. He helped me get Chuck situated. We artfully arranged Chuck with his new bindlestick slung over one shoulder. He then sat with me, hidden by the lilac bushes, and we spent the afternoon watching random cars slow down to read the sign and ogle at our weird dead play-thing.
Is it wrong that the thought of that day still makes me laugh? Perhaps. Am I thankful that I am able to stay home with my children? Yes. I would prefer that they don’t play with road kill and drive the farm equipment unattended. I prefer spending my days with them building sand castles and body surfing. I prefer buying a lobster and letting the kids play with it before we kill it…okay, that’s still a bit “off”, but it happens. I prefer spending family time with each other while we can.
We are a lucky bunch, aren’t we?