rites of passage

I often think of the life I grew up in. We drank out of the garden hose in summer, ate cookies we dropped on the floor if we were quicker than the dog, ignored cuts and bruises, had no air conditioning (attic fan… with all the upstairs windows open it was like one giant ceiling fan).

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We spent summer evenings chasing lightning bugs, playing kick the can till well past dark. We occasionally got into mischief, breaking into a neighbor’s paint shed and spattering the paint, catching someone’s goldfish out of a backyard pond or picking flowers from someone’s flower bed. When we got caught we got paddled.

We generally went to church on Sundays and ate a big dinner with family and friends after. Summer reading was Dick and Jane and Dr. Seuss books in elementary school until we were assigned books. We pledged allegiance to the flag in the morning and had bomb drills where we got under our desks and laughed at how silly it was. We said our prayers at night with Mom or Dad and had a long list of people, dogs, friends we asked God to bless. We were allowed to go pretty much anywhere as long as our Moms knew generally where we were. We didn’t need secret passwords for school because we weren’t likely to be kidnapped and we were smart about strangers.

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We knew enough to come inside out of a lightning storm and heard stories about people who got struck by lightning bolts. We ran barefoot almost all the time and our moms made sure tetanus shots were up to date. We told ghost stories, night or day and halfway believed them.

We had jobs cutting lawns or babysitting that paid 50 cents or a dollar an hour and we thought we were rich. An “allowance” meant an exception to punishment, not more money.

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Almost everybody had a dog. Some had cats but if they didn’t have something they didn’t seem quite right. Arguments were settled with “am not!” “are too!” until we got distracted and forgot the fight altogether. We didn’t hold grudges.

Some families had televisions that took a while to warm up, then the picture disappeared to a dot of light when you turned it off. If you were sneaky you could watch really quietly until around 11 p.m. when the channel signed off with the national anthem, a flag waving, and then a test pattern with a really annoying monotone.

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We didn’t have electronic games, PlayStations, Nintendo, iPhones or iPads. No computers. We relied on our energy and imaginations. We didn’t worry about hurting ourselves. We just ran until we either ran out of time or strength. Or both. We played fair and called out anyone who didn’t so they could make it right. We played by rules everybody agreed to and they shouldn’t be broken. Even as little kids we believed there was a right and wrong and we did our best to do things right and hold our friends accountable as they did us.

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When did everything change, and why?

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18 thoughts on “rites of passage

  1. I grew up the same way, and I don’t know why things changed but I really hate that they did. I think of my parents reminiscing about the “good old days” and how I thought they were stupid but now, I think they were right.

  2. Yes those were the good ole days. I loved when it was time to pull of the shoes and you didn’t have to put them back on until school started. I still remember how we had to slow down for the first day or 2 when we got to the rocks in the drive way because our feet were tender at first. Playing outside ALL day AFTER all the work in the field was done for the day. Eating apples, blackberries, cherries, and peaches right off the trees, no washing needed lol. Eating every meal on the picnic table in the backyard or better yet in the tree house. Oh, and riding our bikes. Great memories.

  3. I can relate to what you write here. Also, I had time to be creative as I lived on a road without too many friends. Many blog posts are waiting to be written about the things of our childhood

  4. Wow, what happy childhood memories you had. I had almost similar memories of outdoor games and picking flowers and chasing dragonflies. This is an entertaining read, I didn’t notice I’m on the last paragraph. And your last message left me nodding, agreeing, especially to the last line.

  5. Absolutely love this trip down childhood memory lane. I can remember those things that are incomprehensible today, like a time when TV actually went off for the night! Our neighbors knew each other and their families so much so that if you did something naughty, like jumping into a pile of fall leaves and scattering them on a neighbor’s lawn while walking to school, the neighbors would inform your parents’ strait away! I can remember our step-dad, who was a great man, feeling very proud to install an old window “swamp cooler” that blew a fan across cold water to imitate air conditioning instead of having to rely on fans in our living room. So much is so different now that I couldn’t even have imagined back then. Thanks for the recollections.

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