Looking back to childhood it seems that years are painted in broad strokes and moments in fine detail.
I grew up in a small town near the Atlantic Ocean. Labor Day the sidewalks rolled up. From then until Memorial Day nearly anyone in town knew you well enough to yell, "Does your mother know you're doing that?" And then call her to report where you were spotted and what dubious activity you were engaged in.
We didn't do wild or dangerous stunts just for the sake of doing something wild and dangerous. Back in the day, parents taught kids that doing anything wild or dangerous was stupid. Stupidity being a punishable offense we avoided it. No free passes were issued because of injury. And frankly, nothing short of a severed limb was sending any of us home due to the ever present specter of Mercurochrome. (If you don't know about Mercurochrome go ask someone over 45. Go ahead.)
So when I tell you that we neighborhood kids spent a full morning taking turns jumping off a roof you can be assured we did so with complete conviction that we were engaging in a safe and reasonable activity for children aged six and seven.
Our ragtag band of neighborhood kids were in Walter's backyard, where many of our adventures began. Walter's mom was busy with a infant and a toddler and less likely to check up on us that some of the other mothers. Also, the house backed onto what we called 'the woods' but was actually a series of wooded lots. The location lessened the chance of well meaning neighbors noticing what we were up to and calling one of our our parents parental interference.
We started low, leaping off a heavy duty picnic table, landing in the soft sugar sand that covers a great deal of the Pinelands. Walter's Mom stepped out onto the back porch with an admonition to be careful - and quiet, as she was about to put the baby she was presently jouncing on her hip down for a nap. Careful to avoid whoops and shrieks (What considerate children!) we graduated to the nearby shed, a drop of less than six feet. Yes, this was more like it! By pushing off the edge of the shed with our feet and wind milling our arms we sailed a good yard or more before gravity took hold. All we needed now was to scrounge up umbrellas and find a way up on to the garage roof.
Now, it just so happened that I'd recently acquired a pretty little buttercup yellow umbrella. Dashing into the house, sweaty and disheveled, I ran past my mother where she sat folding laundry. Snatching up the umbrella I was immediately transformed into Julie Andrews aka Mary Poppins. After a couple twirls and swirls about the living room I burst into a tuneless yet enthusiastic 'Let's Go Fly A Kite'
and sashayed out the door and back down the street.
Now I remember all of this in a vague, gauzy sort of way. Wide strokes of the artist brush. But what I remember clearly, close my eyes and I am there is looking up and admiring the buttercup yellow of my umbrella against the blue sky, the scent of pine trees and warm sand, and sweaty children, my brother, in a striped play shirt and green Toughskin jeans, hair Brylcreamed into place, poised on the shed roof, ready to fly.
And then, mother's voice booming from the heavens, "Don't you dare!" The voice of a goddess laying down the law from a front porch two yards away.
The head is tacked together just at the tippy top, and the 'elbows tacked to the corresponding spots on the card above (you can see the where white spots line up)
Primer pages to share
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