Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Childhood Summer

Four pairs of bright blue eyes were peering at me out of dirt-dusted faces. And compared to all that dirt, the teeth were looking pretty bright as they smiled and laughed and eagerly told me all about the HUGE toad they had seen that had distracted them from the city and roads they have been building under the big maple tree in our back yard. They were wondering about various options for tracking down and capturing the toad.  I wasn’t really listening to their words as I looked at them from head to toe wondering if we could get them clean enough for lunch without a bath. Somehow all that dirt and sweat representing a couple hours of simple play, bike rides, and bug collecting was making me smile. Perhaps if we set up the baby pool today, we could keep all the mess outside.

The three amigos and the princess have come into their own this summer. Not dependent on the older siblings to come up with outdoor play schemes anymore, it’s been fun to see the things they’ve come up with to play on their own. The oldest kids were city born and raised on well-supervised outdoor play, with a 20-foot-radius from a parent at all times. For many years our inner-city metropolitan yard was the size of the proverbial postage stamp. This next group was raised out here from the start–with six acres of traffic-free, water-danger-free, outdoor landscape surrounded by hundreds of acres more of neighboring farms– and the four of them are just old enough now as a group to take advantage of it to the full. They have different boundaries and freedoms and different approaches to exploration. They have built-in best friends all day, every day. They act more like the boys (and the tag-a-long spunky sister) I’ve read about in old books–though fortunately I’ve yet to find snakes or owl pellets in their pockets when I do the laundry.

Childhood Summer.

Rivers made from sticks dragged through the mud
     and mountains made with plastic spades and hands. 
Later it’s handy to have a mountain as a ramp
     for pint-sized bikes practicing for moto-cross events. 
Rocks are made for smashing against rocks,
     and trees are made for climbing
          and somehow falling and landing 
               hard on hands and feet. 
Tractors come and cut and bale the hay
     which calls for better spots to watch
          from up atop the fort nearby the field. 
Popsicle messes dripping in the sun
     and running through the sprinkler on hotter days. 
Tadpoles become frogs on countertop
     and caterpillars brought inside transform
          to fly away as butterflies. 
Tiny cars forever lost in grass near
    kingdoms newly built under the maple trees. 
Feeding birds and rescuing birds from
     family cats without manners for our feathered guests. 
Balls and puppy–and running fast with flailing arms
     when puppy tires of sticks and toys
          and chases down the kids about his size. 
Bikes and glory on long dirt driveway and tiny bumps
     that thrill like crazy jumps off dangerous cliffs. 
Sliding and climbing up, swinging high and jumping,
     and running here and there through paths 
          made in the grass by dad. 
Deep safaris through tall grass which waves
     above the head and filters sunlight
           down onto the jungle floor.
Visits, old photos, and cookies with Mr. Friend.
     Mysterious animal tracks, new bugs and plants
          to discover all the way to the mailbox and back.  
Chalk on sidewalks and mud in outdoor pots
     set over “campfires” made of gathered sticks.
Wagons filled with everything and anything
      are pulled from here to there around the yard.
A foot ball game with Dad becomes a blooper reel
     that stars the youngest boy and girl
        who only know to grab and run…
           but where?  
And special evenings when we sit outside
     and watch the sky grow dark and stars grow bright
before we set off sparklers and impressive little bombs
     light up the night with color.

And every day is sprinkled
    with dirt and sand–
        or is it pixie dust? 
Open windows carry
    laughter on the breeze
      and catch me smiling. 
Happy for childhood summer
   that I get to watch
       and listen to again.


(Thanks to David O'Neal for the "boys under tree" photo.)  


Lynnea said...

Sara...sounds like our house!! The kids are off at camp w/ their Dad and I'm here caring for the 20 some odd caterpillars..(I made them release the toads and frogs!). Last year was so muddy we decided to put in an outdoor solar "shower". It's kept my bathroom mess to a minimum!!:) I have found my daughter dissecting owl pellets(thankfully not in her pocket!)...she seems to know the spot where the wise old owl drops them!! Oh...the peak of the Persaid meteor shower is Thurs...that's always been a fun tradition...lay out in the yard and watch the "shooting stars"! I love the country!:)

Rachel Pierson said...

Hi Sara - Oh I love summer! This blog and poem speak so vividly to me of when Charlie and Moses (and Phoebe) were little - it is so magic and just FUN to even witness all their adventures - even if they don't know you are aware of them, looking out the kitchen window, listening and smiling while you poke around a garden a little or hang up clothes to dry. Polly is more like Ruth, with an entirely different experience as the little sister, instead of the oldest, - and it is sort of fascinating how the dynamics are altered for her compared to Phoebe, - and she does muster all her spunk and game to tag along and enjoy her lot. Happy remaining golden, outdoors, carefree days... love, Rachel

Mom said...

Dear Sara,

Your description of Childhood Summer makes me feel like I'm there. I love it. It makes me want to be out there making mud pies, too!

katie said...

Mrs. Shull, the last stanza of that poem gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes! Thank you :)

Treasure from the Junk Drawer
copyright © Sara Shull
•All text and poetry by Sara
•Art illustrations by Sara
•Photos by Sara or the Shull kids
~~~~All rights reserved~~~~

Bible verses:
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV)