‘Summer vacation from school was freedom for all the old gang’

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 quite place to reminisce about a place or a 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?

Summer vacation from school was freedom for all the old gang that lived on the lane. We played from sun up until sundown in the old field with the woodland close by for exploring nature.

We teamed up for games of softball, basketball and pitching horseshoes; 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.” The girls always made a stop by the old pond looking deep into the murky water as they made a wish, hoping it would come true. The cattails and dragonflies added a wee bit of mystery to the old pond. We played hide-and-seek late in the evening by the light of the moon and the only sound were voices calling out “oly-oly-oxen-free.”

Once we tired of that game we would spin around in circles until we were half dazed, falling to sleep, yet at the same time, aware of life around us rising only when we heard familiar voices calling “it is bed time, time to come home.” The old gang one by one headed in the direction of their houses, leaving my brothers and myself dreading to end the day. As we headed home, we know our Mom would have the old tin bathtub waiting in the smoke house filled with hot water, with an extra kettle heating on the stove to freshen the water for my brothers. Being I was the only girl in our family, I was given the privilege to bath first. My younger brothers bathed two by two using the same bathwater. 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, except on weekends each member of the family had fresh bath water carried from grandma’s old moss covered well.

After our baths with fresh scrubbed faces, dressed in our nightshirts, we were ready for bed but not before a stop in the kitchen for a treat of cornbread and sweet milk. Mom tucked each of us into bed listening to all we did this day. Mom reminded us before our prayers we were to think about school starting soon that summer vacation was about over. I remember feeling a twinge of sadness not wanting summer to end. I was not quite ready to give up my freedom of running in the field or walking the rutted lane to Aunt Mandy’s house to visit a spell. As I fell to sleep, I wondered who would help Uncle John peel peaches, or gather Grandma’s eggs. I finally drifted to sleep dreaming of tomorrow’s adventures. The start of school was still days away. If I close my eyes, I go back to that place in time running across the field as darkness bid the end of a summer day adventure. I can hear that old gang of mine from the land calling out one by one, “oly-oly-oxen-free.”

My quote for today is by Dorothy Thompson, I am inclined to think that the flowers we most love are those we knew when we were very young.

Mildred Hammons Higgins

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