Friday, April 1, 2011

The Best of Times

When I was four years old I lived in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia and on hot summer days you could hear the bell of the ice cream truck coming down the street. As soon as I heard it  I would leave whatever it was that I was playing with and run to the wooden screen door and burst into the house yelling 'ninet-nee cream from the noon-ty truck' which translated meant 'ice cream from the ice cream truck. Now, I don't know why my four year old brain mixed up the words so badly and why 'ice cream' was both 'ninet-nee' and 'noon-ty' but it worked. I got my ten cents and my ice cream.

Summers were wonderful in those days. We made mud pies, had picnics with our baby dolls, walked our babies in their strollers up and down the sidewalk, played with marbles and jacks and splashed in our two-ring-blow-up swimming pool. Sometimes we would wash our baby doll clothes in an ice cream bucket and hang them out to dry while our 'babies' were napping. Once in awhile we had bubbles to blow from the top of the doorstep and watch to see who could blow the biggest bubble.

We'd take over the sidewalk when we had sidewalk chalk, but we always moved if someone needed to get by. We'd ride our bikes but always within the sight of the house and we'd swing on our swing set until we thought for sure we could touch the sky. We'd catch caterpillars in a washed out mayonaise jar with holes poked in the top for air.

If we were thirsty we either drank from the hose or we'd get a home made popsicle from Mom. When we got tired of playing, we'd ask Mom for a quilt to spread on the ground in the shade and we'd lay on our backs watching for pictures in the clouds. Sometimes we even fell asleep under the trees. We didn't play indoors because we didn't want to: there was too much to do outside.

Sometimes if we could get the neighbourhood kids together we'd play huge games of red light-green light, red rover and mother may I? And they were the best of times. As we got older we'd play hide and seek at dusk and that was always exciting. Then one by one you'd start to hear the mother's calling for their children to come home and get washed up for bed. It was a great time.

We always slept well on the cool sheets and I don't ever remember someone saying they had a hard time sleeping other than a few nights of the year when it was just too hot to sleep. We couldn't wait for the next day to begin. Maybe it's just me but I think times were more simple then and maybe people were happier. I know for me if I had ten cents for an ice cream or if I had a particularily good batch of mud mixed up for my mud cakes, I was pretty content and felt rich beyond belief.

Even now I prefer simple things. I can find joy in making a fire in my fire pit or having potato salad for supper and eating outdoors. I love watermellon on a hot day and I like to cool my feet in a brook and watch the water spiders gliding along the surface of the water. I love the singing of the heat locusts on a hot day and the crickets at night. I love a window dressed with starched, white cotton curtains blowing in the breeze and the look of a line full of clothes blowing in the wind. Simple things.

Sometimes we get too busy to appreciate the simple things. And some children have forgotten how to play outdoors or to even play at all without an adult having to be there to entertain them. A good batch of mud, an old kitchen spoon and a mixing bowl or bucket entertained us for hours and prepared us, in a way that electronic games never could, for the future. Do kids even play with baby dolls anymore? Or make mud pies and cakes? Or lay on a quilt under the trees and imagine it is a magic carpet? I hope that somewhere they do because those were the best of times.

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