A friend posed a question- what in our upbringing do we treasure? We are in our 50’s and 60’s, so we are talking about the 1950’s. It being summer now, my mind filled with summer memories from my childhood. Not significant times like vacations- my family was lousy at taking vacations. My parents always seemed to fight on trips. But memories from the neighborhood of my childhood, on Warner Street. Back then our street dead-ended into a field that later became a small housing development. A dead-end street is a wonderful place to grow up, because the only car traffic is from people who live there, mostly Dads returning from work. After dinner we kids often gathered in the street to play. I remember big, communal, all-ages included games of kickball, baseball, and- as day turned to dusk- turned to night, the last game was kick the can. Suspense built as kids receeded into lengthening shadows, emerging suddenly to kick the can sitting in the middle of the hot asphalt street. I remember playing outside so long that I peed in my little cotton undies because I was too rapt to think of leaving the action.
We also had our mayonnaise jars. Well, actually Miracle Whip jars. We took the metal lid off the empty glass jar, turned it upside down, and hammered nail holes in it. Then we returned lid to jar and it was our bug catcher. These were for fireflies. I think of the Margaret Wise Brown poem “A Child’s Delight” with its line, ‘Too little to hug, too precious to die, a firefly.’ Fireflies are slow, they are gentle, and a jar with five or ten is very satisfying to carry round with you until bedtime.
I think the theme of my old Warner Street summer memories is just muddling around, with groups but often in my own mind, at dusk. Dusk is a magical time- the light is leaving, and normally it would be bedtime. But not now- its summer, and you can stay out late. Time ceases to have the same rigid authority. I love memories of those summer evenings because they transport me to the feeling of living in the moment and stretching time out as long as possible- not even stopping to go in to pee- until a parent remembered they had children and thought to call us in to wash up for bed.