Remembering summer games

Mildred Higgins Web

Summer days are perfect for gentle pursuits, like reading, writing letters, reaching out to touch family or long, lost friends. It is also a good time to find your quiet place to reminisce about a place or time when you were young and light of heart.

Who doesn’t remember a place in time when summers were a time for freedom?

Childhood was a time to run with the wind wild and free, a time for scraped knees, stone bruises, bee stings and daydreaming.

Do you remember how you spent time during summer vacation from school? I remember playing from sunup to sundown in the old pasture behind our house with a woodland close for exploring nature.

The old gang from the lane teamed up for games of softball, basketball and pitching horseshoe. The girls were as good at those games as the boys.

We ran barefooted in the tall meadow grass chasing butterflies while dodging “cow pies.” I could not pass the pond where the cows watered without stopping to look deep into the murky water and making a wish in hope it would come true.

Tall cattails and dragonflies added a wee bit of mystery to the old pond. I would be drawn away from the pond by the sound of voices calling “oly-oly-oxen-free.”

When we were tired of playing games, we would sit quietly listening to the sounds of the evening lulling us half to sleep, yet at the same time aware of life around us, rising only when we heard familiar voices calling “It is bedtime, time to come home.” One by one the old gang headed in the direction of their homes leaving my brothers and myself dreading to end the play and marking the end the week.

As we headed home, we knew our mom would have the old tin bathtub filled with hot water sitting in the smoke house with an extra kettle heating on the stove to freshen the bathwater for my brothers after my bath. Being the only girl in our family, I was given the privilege to bath first. My younger brothers bathed two by two using the same bath water.

The youngest boys never complained about having to bath in twice-used water.

The thought to complain would never occur, as there was no running water in those days. Even at our young tender ages, we knew not to be wasteful. Water was to be used sparingly on weekends. Each family member had fresh bath water carried from grandma’s moss-covered well to fully bath.

After a day of play and freshly scrubbed faces, dressed in our nightshirts, we were ready for a treat of cornbread and sweet milk before bed.

Mom tucked each one in, listening to chatter about all we did this day.

Mom reminded us to think about school starting soon, summer vacation was soon to end. I remember a twinge of sadness hearing Mom’s words. I was not ready to give up playing in the green pasture, walking the rutted road to Aunt Mandy’s or helping Uncle John peel peaches. As I drifted off to sleep I wondered who would help grandma gather eggs when I started back to school.

My thought for today: if I close my eyes, I go back to that place in time, running across the pasture, darkness bidding the end of a summer’s day adventure. I hear the old gang of mine from the lane calling out one by one, “oly-oly-oxen-free.”