“What five things do you miss from your childhood?”
I have seen others on Mr. Blogroll answer this question, and I find the question and everyone’s answers quite interesting. I, therefore, have decided to take a dip in the pool, as it were.
Generating such a list is always difficult, because the minute you’ve posted the list, you invariably think of other things that probably should have been included. With that said, here are the five things that come to mind as I sit here at the end of a long, long day of chock full of Life 101.
In no particular order, they are:
1. The Last Day of School: For me, it was a day of unbridled joy. It always seemed to be a sunny day (admittedly, that is probably a product of selective memory), full of promise for the next couple months of freedom. In grammar school, we would sing:
No more pencils, no more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks.
I couldn’t wait to get home to take off and put away my “school clothes,” and don my jeans (We called them “dungarees” then), which, along with a few tee shirts, constituted my summer garb. Back then, boys in my neighborhood didn’t wear shorts.
Of course, things changed as I got older and the last day of school meant a summer job.
2. Gutter Ball: We played gutter ball damned near all year round. The game was played with two people. The “batter” threw a ball (a tennis ball, or Spalding rubber ball a/k/a “Spaldeen”) against the curb, and the fielder tried to catch it. Each grounder caught was an out. Catching it on a fly also constituted an out. A missed grounder was a single. If the ball crossed the opposite curb on a fly, it was a double. If it went on Mr. Whatshisname’s lawn on a fly, it was a triple. If the ball flew over Mr. Whatshisname’s fence, it was a homer. The idea, of course, was to hit the curb with the ball precisely on the corner, which all but assured a homer. Each player would be identify himself as a “team,” which back then pretty much guaranteed that the “teams” chosen were the Yankees, the NEW YORK Giants and/or the BROOKLYN Dodgers. “Now coming to the plate with the bases loaded, Yogi Berra!” This was serious stuff, and the games would go on for hours and hours, and hours.
3. Sleigh Riding. With a good snow, we would sleigh ride to the point of exhaustion, or until dark, whichever came first. Sometimes this took place on the nearest street that resembled a hill, but when we got serious snowstorms, we would sleigh ride in “the woods,” which in reality was probably no more than a nearby acre or so of undeveloped land in the town. It may not have been a true “woods,” but for us it was like Aspen.
4. Italian Hot Dogs and Lemon Ice. It was always a rare treat on those occasions when my father would come home from work and say, “How about for supper, we take a ride “Down Neck” (i.e. the “Ironbound” Section of Newark) and pick up Italian Hot Dogs?” An Italian Hot Dog (a “double” – one always got a “double”) consisted of two greasy hot dogs in a half a “pizza roll” (Think one half of a loaf of Italian Bread, about the size of a small hubcap, shaped like a pita), with mustard, peppers, onions and fries crammed into the crevice of the roll. There simply is nothing better.
On other nights, my dad would suggest that we take a ride “Down Neck” to Adams Street for some lemon ice. Back then, Adams Street was the Mecca of lemon ice. The old Italian ladies used to make it and sell it from ramshackle stands in front of their multi-family houses. The stuff had real bits of lemon rind in it. Heavenly.
5. Family Gatherings. On holidays and often on no special occasion, my parents, aunts, uncles, family friends and cousins would find themselves in the same place at the same time. The adults drank beer or “highballs,” while the kids drank Coke, Pepsi or “Dad’s Root Beer.” This was not a talking free-for-all, with everyone blabbing at the same time. Instead, without any formal rules, it essentially was a story telling event, with each person capturing the floor and everyone else’s attention while he or she said something that had everyone, as they used to say, “in stitches.” The children were included, but if you managed to capture the floor and, thereby everyone’s attention, the story had better be good. It was wonderful training for adulthood, and yet not a single person in the room ever studied developmental psychology, adolescent psychology, social psychology, or any other “ology” for that matter. Jack’s dad was da bomb at these events.
Sadly, the “grownups” are all gone now. I hope we pack the same gear.