As I’ve sorta mentioned already, I’m temporarily renting a room from an aunt who lives on Long Island. She has two kids, 13 and 10 years old. They’re both out of shape, too young to be out of shape. When I was a kid, I was locked out of the house on summer afternoons, told (screamed at, if we’re being honest) to go play outside. There were times when I whined about it but looking back from here, I am grateful for the experience. Kids now just sit in front of the computer/tv/phone all day, and that seems to keep them perfectly content.I grew up about 30 miles from here, and I haven’t been back to the suburbs in a long time. This town is different but the same, as I’m pretty sure suburbs are suburbs. Beach is less than a mile away, there are trees and lawns, there are fences and sewers, there’s the lush smell of dead animals burning on propane grills, there are old men’s egos riding on too-loud Harleys, and there are throngs of yapping dogs. Even though the bastards come in all shapes and sizes, I’m convinced that every single god-damned canine on Long Island has the Napoleon complex, much like 94.6% of the ridiculous humans here.
Anyway. I have a lot of free time at this point, and so I’m trying to encourage the rotund little children to get out of doors more. So I lure them with footballs and baseballs and frisbees and sidewalk chalk and walks to the library or the park or someplace else. The boy can’t throw and the girl can’t catch but we manage. No, this is not my way of boasting about my own athletic prowess, I’m just talking facts here. Another fact is that at the ripe old age of 28, I’m not nearly as agile and fearless as I once was.
This has become a small problem as of late. The other day, someone (okay, fine, it was silly old me) punted a football clear over a barbed-wire fence that runs the perimeter of a sump. Don’t expect me to tell you what a sump is, other than a big crater-type hole in the ground, because I still have no clue why they exist. So yeah. Yay! I got to climb over a rusted barbed-wire fence for the first time in well over ten years. It was kind of fun though; this was the first time I’d had a good excuse to lick my own blood off of my own hand in a long while. Of course, as soon as I was up top straddling this barbed monstrosity, the kids pointed out the big hole in the fence that lived 6 feet to the left. Awesome!
Well this whole playing-outside-in-good-weather thing has got me thinking. About my own childhood. The fun and the danger and the cuts and scrapes and everything else that went along with running ’round the suburbs. And I realised that the thing I miss most about being 12… is retrieving objects from dangerous places.
I grew up on a weird street. We lived on the corner, where the street started. It then went uphill for approximately 7 houses each on either side, where it then connected to two cul-de-sacs. So yes, it was “T” shaped. I had a best friend at the end of the left side of the sac, and another dorky friend at the end of the other side. And there was a weird family that lived right up top where the three-way-intersection was, but I didn’t like those kids because they were creepy and went to a private school (so instead, I just broke their windows and then always denied breaking their windows).
But in either of the courts, we’d play sports in the streets. Baseball, wiffle-ball, basketball, tennis, hockey, whatever. And we played in yards too; everyone had hilly, woodsy backyards. We ran around and climbed trees and jumped down giant sandhills and explored trails. As we got a little older, we started to smoke cigarettes and pot, we stole Hustler magazines from the stores down the road, and we snuck into abandoned or unfinished houses where we took pride in shitting inside the walls and swinging from the chandeliers until we either crashed hard or got electrocuted or caved the ceilings in.
And during all of this, somewhere between the decadence and the innocence, there were balls to be retrieved. Climbing down into the sewers once a month, to fetch what seemed like soggy buried treasure… sometimes, we’d find 30 balls down there! And climbing rickety wooden fences, into what seemed like the abyss but was actually just the weird old neighbour’s backyard. And taking ladders up to rooftops and up in trees, to snag our lost frisbees or tennis rackets or soccer balls. This was the best part of my childhood. It was fun and stupid and innocent and perilous, all at once. It was heaven and I miss it.
So strange. When it was going on, I couldn’t wait to be “grown-up” enough to move to the city or drive around for no reason or go drink in bars and meet pretty girls. And now that I’ve spent most of the last 10 years doing these “adult” things (and probably growing to become quite jaded by adulthood), it’s shocking to realise how sentimental the old memories make me feel now.
I guess I’m just trying to say, again, that summertime in beach-town suburbs is a perfect match for what my soul needs at the moment. I am grateful to be where I am. And I am patient enough to be able to wait. I’ll be gone from here in the fall, and I’m excited for my big plans, but it feels good to not be counting the days until that time comes.
I am loving life right now. And yes, of course, I’m enjoying a nice cold PBR. (Yeah, I’m thinking if I namedrop the Pabst enough, they’ll give me some free shit. Righteous!)
How’s your summer going so far?