Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Back In My Day...

Warning: The following post adopts the tone of a jaded old codger who rambles on about how, in is day, he didn’t have such fancy whose-its and what-nots to keep him entertained and had to endure some sort of hardship. It further seeks to blame today’s younger generation for the existence of advancements that were not available to me at the same age, despite the fact that I would have killed to have such things. You’ve had your warning, continue reading at your own risk.

When I was a kid and summer hit, the free time and the endless sunlight was all the entertainment my friends and I needed. Okay, so maybe there was a ball involved. We played our own version of handball. It required no more than a tennis ball, an opponent and any variety of flat surface with a crack in it, preferably cement. It was played basically like ping-pong but with your hands.

We played running bases with a tennis ball. This is the classic game where you and your friends run back and forth from one square of sidewalk to another while two friends throw said tennis ball back and forth and try to tag you somewhere in the middle. If you were to watch people play it for the first time, they would behave similar to dogs playing fetch except the point is to avoid the tennis ball.

We also played “Off the Stairs.” This was another baseball themed game where you threw a tennis ball off the stairs (hence the name) and tried to bounce it as far away as possible without your competitors catching it.

Come to think of it, the eighties must have seen a surplus in tennis ball production because we always seemed to have plenty of them around. The only thing we didn’t do with them was play tennis. Even when one ended up in somebody’s gutter, we just always seemed to have another one at the ready. As a homeowner, I can now only imagine the frustration all those tennis balls in the various neighborhood gutters caused come autumn seeing as we never bothered to alert an adult to the potential downspout blockage.

But enough about the glory that is the benevolent and versatile tennis ball. My point is that it didn’t take much to keep us thinking that we had it made every summer. As long as whatever we decided to do was not being scrutinized beneath the oppressive eye of school-year authority, we loved it.

On the particularly hot days, a sprinkler kept you busy for a minimum of four hours. If someone had a Slip n’ Slide, your parents had to arrive to drag you home. A friend with a pool could have held sleepovers every night of the season with most of the children wanting to sleep on an inflatable float in the pool in order to avoid having to put too much distance between themselves and the water.

Cut to my sons, knowing I haven’t had time to set up our pool yet this year, begging me for seventy-two hours straight, including calling out in their sleep, to set up the Slip n’ Slide my oldest had received for his December birthday. They continued their pleading despite two solid days of thunderstorms. This was especially odd seeing as my youngest son is terrified of thunderstorms the way only dogs usually are.

Finally, the time came. “Can you set it up now?” they asked. “Can we invite friends?” they implored. “Is it ready yet?” they pestered.

Once it was ready and they had at least thirty (or maybe it just felt that way) friends over to play on it, they began laughing and having a grand old time. Needless to say, I was quite pleased with myself. Saying this is needless because I am often quite pleased with myself completely undeservedly. So when my actions actually result directly in someone’s happiness, my being quite pleased becomes obvious.

Within a few minutes of being reminded by yours truly, “Take turns,” and, “One at a time,” they had gotten the hang of it. They were throwing themselves headfirst across my front lawn and splashing into the miniature pool at the end of the plastic strip with veracity. In triumph, I retreated to my refrigerator momentarily to get myself a beer. The first sip tasted like victory.

But all was not as it seemed. Not even halfway into my beer, whose subsequent sips tasted more of contentedness than victory, things abruptly changed.

“Can we go in the backyard?”

“Can we jump on the trampoline?”

“This is getting boring.”

“I wanna go inside and play video games!”

“Can we go to someone else’s house?”

This caused the rest of the beer to taste like frustration and bitterness, which oddly enough tasted very much like tears and blood…mixed with beer. I drank it anyway since I didn’t want it to go to waste.

The kids who lived within a block were told that they could go home if they were bored. Some took the offer. My sons attempted to walk off with them and were told that after hearing them whine for three days, I would be damned if they were not going to slide on that freaking Slip n’ Slide until their stomachs were raw.

While they played a bit longer, they kept complaining occasionally when the fun stopped long enough for them to remember they didn’t get something they wanted. When all their friends had finally gone home, my boys were informed that it’s going to be a long summer if they keep this act up.

But I think I have a solution. Tomorrow, I plan on buying a package of tennis balls.

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