|My brother, Dave, about 6, and me, about 9.|
It's a hot, humid, central Indiana summer. We don't live near a lake, and there's no money for a membership at a swimming pool. But who cares? The grass is cool and green in our backyards and feels good between our toes when we run barefoot. We play outside all day long, only coming inside when called for sandwich lunches, ovenless dinners, and the eventual bedtime. Only reruns are on TV and we think computers are like robots: science fiction.
We play Kickball and Red Rover in Mary and Donna's double lot. One day both teams for the day walk a kid home when the ball hits him in the mouth and breaks his braces. We think if we show this support for our bloody-mouthed friend that his mom won't yell at him. She doesn't. This is what friends are for.
Sometimes we swing on the playset in the backyard, then play in the sand box fashioned from a rubber tire, and then swing again. Ponytails fly as we go back and forth, back and forth. Barrettes and sweat anchor down what hair our ponytail holders don't. When we get hot or bored or both, we put on our swimsuits and Mom sprays us with the garden hose.
Some days we patiently sit on the curb and wait for the ice cream truck to come down our street, holding tight to the coins we just got for allowance. On other days, we eat more Popsicles than now seems humanly possible. They flow from the same freezer in the refrigerator that offers ice cubes for our Koolaid. Cherry for me either way, please.
On rainy afternoons we play board games on neighborhood porches. Every house has one. Where else would the milkman leave the milk? First we play at one kid's house and then at another's so the moms can take turns keeping an eye out for us. I want to be The Monopoly Champion of Berwyn Street!
When it gets dark, we catch lightning bugs in jars while our parents sit on the front porch and talk softly, joining other murmuring voices from other porches and open windows. Then we politely let the beautiful blinking creatures go before we are reluctantly ushered inside for the night.
I sleep with open windows in my second-floor bedroom and an electric fan blowing right on me and my baby doll pajamas, right after taking the coldest bath I can stand. Air conditioning? Oh, yes. Some restaurants have that.
It's the best summer a skinny nine-year-old girl in need of her own braces can have. A treasure. I can feel it, smell it, hear it. To this day.
For readers, what book have you read recently that brought back some of the memories from your childhood?
For writers, if you write fiction, do you often include how their childhood experiences helped to form your characters as adults? Do you think that would be a good idea for some characters? Why?