Friday, June 03, 2005
Being a Boy
In response to a meme visited upon by a formerly respected Brother of the Bar, I hereby present my answer to Five Things I Miss About My Childhood.
1. My bike. It was a HUGE red Columbia with fat tires, upgraded with “monkey bars” and a banana seat. I rode it everywhere, and in an absolutely fearless fashion. It was my vehicle of freedom, my magic carpet. Throw the mitt over the bars and pedal over to Stratford School for a pick-up game of catch-a-flyers-up. Grab the pigskin and head over to Adelphi College or the Junior High for a game of rough two-hand touch. Bear down hard for the ride down South Avenue in the dawn light (you wouldn’t want to be late to serve morning mass at St. Joe’s Convent). Take an after school cruise of 7th Street, skidding to stop (always skidding to stop) at Baskin-Robbins for a cone and a look at the cute public school girls. The bike was my rocket to new worlds…and my parents never knew where I was.
2. Parades. Little League parades, Memorial Day parades, Fourth of July parades, Mardi Gras parades, Christmas parades, any parade. There always seemed to be one just around the corner. A good reason to festoon the bike with ribbons and balloons and clip baseball cards so they’d flutter against the spokes (for that motorcycle sound). There would be bands and soldiers and antique cars and fire trucks, and Mr. Wong on his big gold Harley. Sometimes you’d even get to march or ride in the parade yourself, other times you’d just hang out on the curb and yell to people you knew as they passed by. What happened to parades? We should have more parades.
3. Sledding. “Superman Hill” was a big lump over on the golf course that provided me and my Flexible Flyer with thousands of hours of quality time. Snow Day!!!!! Bundle up and trudge down the road and then over the white shrouded fairways until you saw about 300 kids all flying down the hill in various states of control. (No grown-ups please. Big kids can come back after dark.) Toboggans barreled down the slopes sending kids, sleds, mittens and scarves flying in every direction. Hook your feet into the guy’s sled behind you and get a “train” started. How many sleds in your train? All day long it was race down the hill, climb back up, race down again. Hour after hour until the sun got low and you knew you were going to get in trouble when you got home. But, still, there was time for one more run. Finally, you began the long walk home in the twilight, noticing the cold for the first time, and praying for another snow day tomorrow.
4. Summer at the Beach. No place better for a kid than at the beach. ANY beach. My mother and the kids would go to Grandma’s house at Breezy Point and flop for a couple of weeks. Dad would join us on weekends. No air conditioning, and no cars, but lots of cousins and sand and water to play with. In the mornings the push carts would come down the walk, the vender crying out his wares in song. I can still hear them “TAY- looor, shoo-MAY-ker.” “Rock-aWAAAAY Point News!- Ten cents- Pointer.” You never wore shoes, except to church on Sunday morning, and to ride the ferry boat (no cars) over to Sheepshead Bay to pick up clam bisque for mom or just for the hell of it. After dinner the grown-ups would send us kids packing as a group to the ice cream store. The round trip for a pack of ten or twelve kids usually took forever, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise to find the big folks a little “merry” and singing out on the back porch. A bamboo pole and a can of worms was good for a whole afternoon of fishing off the ferry dock, and on Tuesday nights there were fireworks across the bay at Coney Island that lit up the sky at Grandma’s house. But the beach was always the center of attraction. Sand and sun and the waves in the cold Atlantic provided all the entertainment a boy needed.
Once a summer we made the trek out to the eastern North Fork to spent a couple of weeks on the rocky shores of Long Island Sound. It was a different kind of beach experience. A quieter time spent boating and fishing and skipping flat stones into the calm waters for hours on end. And ferry boats to ride (with cars). I still go to the beach every August with my kids. I hope that some day they will remember their beach days as fondly as I my own.
5. Energy. Kid energy. The boundless type that comes from just being alive and eight years old. Energy that allowed you to spend every waking moment in motion; running, riding, swinging, wrestling, climbing, playing. Everyday you went to the well and there was more to be had. And when you got banged up, the patient doctor would stitch you back together and away you went at high speed. As a kid you never thought it was going to end. You’d always be able to climb to the top of the tree, beat the throw to first, and swim out to the raft. I try to keep fit, but once upon a time it never would have occurred to me “to exercise.” Life was exercise. I give a whole lot just to feel like I was 8 years old…one more time.
Posted by spd rdr at 4:41 PM