Friday, July 13, 2012

Sticky Summer Sovereignty

Small feet pound over the blacktop, rocks crunching underneath, and leap over the curb into soft summer grass. An escapee scurries frantically to the tree. If he can hurl his arms around the tree trunk, the base, just in time, the chaser will have to turn their attention to a new target, and a sigh of relief will pour over his entire body. Yet it will not be long until bark meets fingers as fingers meet t-shirt, and a new “It” will be declared.

Summer memories from childhood fill up and overflow nostalgic minds with scenes such as this moment. Hide and Go Seek Tag was a court-wide event, and nearly every front yard was fair game for hiding places. Streets pulsed with the adrenaline of escape and the triumph of catching a friend at last, and the steamy air was filled with the scents of grass-stained feet and sun baked blacktops. This fair, happy place made up “The Court”, the fond name that the children called their beloved dominion.

Despair invaded the realm when screen doors slammed and mothers came out to call their children in for dinner. Yet there was a chance that friends might be released from the prison cells of dinner time, and games could carry on as warm breezes finally overcame the hazy heat. Summer evenings held a special magic for the hearts of every child on the court, as hide and go seek was succeeded by tracing the stars and childish chatter. Hopefully lime popsicles would join in the fun, filling mouths with a sticky sweetness. Minutes in the moment were treasured before the summons finally came for bedtime.

Summer was a highly anticipated, glamorous time for every child on the court. It was a time of freedom from motherly worries and expectations. Children had full reign over the court, and ruled their summery kingdom with laughter and games. The law was to have as much fun as could be squeezed out of a day. Tribute was paid in popsicles and lemonade. Bare feet were a royal prerogative, symbolizing the power in childhood imagination.

We reveled in the deliciousness of summer. We couldn’t wait until it was warm enough to go barefoot, and limits would be pushed and tweaked until mothers would consent to let us go outside barefoot earlier and earlier in the summer. Bare feet, however, could not run away fast enough from the dreaded event of growing up. We grew apart. Summer freedom was replaced with summer responsibilities and summer school. The magic of summer nights could not be recaptured doing homework indoors while it rained outside. Troubled thoughts crowded out the freedom, relegating it to the realm of memories and loss.

Devastation can easily envelop my soul as I muse on the summer nights that will never be again. The summer kingdom has been lost, and only now do I realize what a treasure it was. An easy way to patch up this hurt is to squelch all feelings of loss. One has to move forward somehow. Yet as I enter adulthood, I hold onto a quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “Age is opportunity no less / Than youth itself, though in another dress, / And as the evening twilight fades away / The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day” (Morituri Salutamus: Poem for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Class of 1825 in Bowdoin College, 282-285). Night can either be feared or embraced. Adulthood can be either the death of childhood, or an opportunity grasp onto the lingering foothold of childhood freedom in order to re-imagine adulthood. What if a new kind of freedom can be found in responsibilities and homework? They can be strong symbols of the loss of childhood, but they can also symbolize the joy of new knowledge and new perspectives on the world that we were oblivious to as children. Leaving childhood behind has given me the freedom to explore a new world, one which I never thought I would want to enter as a child. The lessons I have learned about love and the blessing of deep relationships in adulthood helps me to hold onto the joy of childhood. The world is a complex place filled with sadness, but the pockets of hope that can be grasped as an adult can help us to move past the loss of childhood into a place where we can learn to stop and appreciate little moments as a child would.

1 comment: