Today begins the holiday weekend and tomorrow is the last day of August. Summer, despite all my efforts to hold on to it, is ending. Still, August is a special month because the days soak up the summer’s heat, reluctant to sink into autumn chill.
We kids made the most of the shrinking summer days before adults herded us back into classrooms—which never happened before Labor Day. As card-carrying members of the Baby Boom generation, we always had other kids to play with and lots of things to do.
Summer Mornings at the Playground
During the morning, we took advantage of Somerset’s playground program, with organized games and activities. The Pottersville School was an easy walk from our house, one that was well traveled by my sister and I, along with our BFFs, Pauline and Liz.
In the afternoon we rode our big Schwinn bikes all over the neighborhood, and sometimes beyond, without benefit of helmets. Sometimes we roller skated on the street with heavy metal skates we clamped to our shoes with an arcane implement called a skate key.
On really hot days, we played board games and other things in the shade of the backyard grapevine and every summer seemed to have its own specialty. One year it would be Monopoly, then cards, then Scrabble. No one ever decided; it just worked out that way.
When the afternoons were too hot even for that, I sat inside with a fan droning around me and read books. On a good afternoon, Mom would take a break from her housework and drive us to the new Somerset Library to get new ones.
The Baby Boom Teams
If we wanted to join a larger group, that was no problem. There were plenty of candidates for baseball—played with co-ed teams and a hardball—in some kid’s back yard or on the Pottersville field. There was handball off the backboard and sometimes tennis, played with the racquets we got with books of Green Stamps.
After dinner, we would pile out of the house again to join other neighborhood kids in the gathering darkness. No one had air conditioning, so outside was almost always cooler.
We used the grounds of the American Legion Hall across the street and Gibbs Cemetery beyond that as our private playgrounds. There we could play hide and seek, free the box, statues, tag, and other immortal children’s games without interference by parents. We reluctantly went inside when our mothers called us or we couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces.
Free of Parental Supervision
No parental units monitored us, supervised our activities, coached, umpired, criticized, cajoled, or told us when to stop.They were busy doing adult things and had no idea where we were or what we were up to. “Go out and play,” was the parental directive and we did. We made our own decisions about what to do and whether we wanted to keep going or do something else.
As I said in a previous post, “Our job was to play, to learn, to figure out what we liked or not, to decide who our friends were, to not bother our parents, and to avoid going to the hospital.” We went at it with a will. Sometimes we got scrapes and cuts that required maternal first aid, but no one broke a bone.
Swimming Under the Sturgeon Moon
August was the best time for us to go swimming in the Taunton River. The Pratt Avenue Beach—regrettably now closed—was just a block away from my house. On warm August nights, the four of us would grab towels and head down after dinner to swim in the August moon tide.
While motorboats boomed and whomped up and down the river, we swam out to the raft. There was something special about floating at evening’s high tide, with the river water warm as blood and full of wild ocean smells.
As the air darkened, the river deepened with benign summer mystery, The Sturgeon Moon, rising in the east, lit the black water around us with silver light. Waves lapped the raft as if strange creatures had swum inland on the moon-driven flood.
When we had showered off the salt water, we fell into bed, exhausted. There had been no screen time for us–the concept was unknown. Our small black-and-white TV went only after dinner, so my mother could iron while she watched. We lay in bed listening to crickets marking the minutes and smelled the honeysuckle-sweetened night air. Often, we turned the pillow over to lie on the cool side before drifting off to sleep.
Ah, childhood. August brings back those memories, especially now that I no longer have to spend beautiful days cooped up in an office. I can do what I want in the daytime and later sit reading on my front porch to watch night fall around me. It’s too late in the summer for fireflies but the birds sing their fluttery songs as they head back to the nest. And the crickets start their stridulations, which slow as the night air cools.
Here, the kids have already returned to school and we have begun opening the windows as night temperatures drop into the fifties. Before I can blink, I will be pulling out the turtlenecks and wool socks.
For these last few days, though, I can enjoy August’s pleasures. After all, my tomato plants are delivering a bumper crop and I can still get sweet corn at the farm stand down the road. it’s all good.