"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Remembering Summer

During elementary school, teachers frequently assigned a writing topic similar to the title of this post as a first-day-welcome-back-to-school initiation to the class. Apparently, they missed hearing the groaning of their students for no one enjoys writing the first day back in class. My summers as a child weren’t terribly exciting that I recall. Aside from the occasional road trip to California to see relatives, playing outside with my brother and sister and reading 10,000 library books to earn the movie prize at the end-of-the-summer, our lives were fairly uneventful. Still, I wish those ancient papers still existed somewhere in the depths of mom’s storage boxes. My kids might actually get a glimpse of a summer without texting, video games or computer! Perhaps teachers rarely give students this assignment today because they don’t wish to read 30 papers filled with video game escapades, Barbie computer games and the TV tales of Phineas and Ferb.
While my summer papers are long lost in la-la land, I could relate their contents with some accuracy. Road trips with my family consisted of playing the “ABC” game in which we silently collected letters on road signs until we found the letter “z”. The object was to be the first person to yell the final letter. When we grew tired of playing (or were traveling the long stretch of flat freeway between Stockton and Bakersfield with no signs anywhere), mom started “Categories.” I think she created this game when she was fed up with the three of us asking, “Are we there yet” every five minutes. Someone would pick a category, such as “pies,” “outside games,” or “boys’ names that begin with ‘Q’,” and we’d take turns coming up with a word that fit. One was disqualified when a word was repeated or someone was stumped. When bored with a category, we would “accidentally” repeat a word to get thrown out of the game.
Next on the list of things to occupy us was auto bingo or tracking license plates from different states. With no dvd players, dsi’s or cell phones to keep our eyes glued, we stared for hours at farmland with acres of vegetables or fruit trees, pastures with grazing cows and horses and giant snow-capped mountains. Sometimes we asked our parents questions about the scenery because we had nothing else to do, nowhere to escape. GPS and MapQuest were nonexistent, so we used the old-fashioned paper map to follow the towns until we arrived at our destination. I loved to trace my finger along the map as we passed each city and then call out the next town and number of miles. Aside from an atlas we own, I’m not sure my children have ever seen a real live map. I chant, “Whatever happened to the days of map-reading, auto bingo and being bored for hours on end?” I sound just like my grandma, lamenting the good old days of horse and buggy.
When we weren’t road tripping concocting our own entertainment, we’d play “Red Rover, Red Rover,” “Red Light, Green Light” or “Mother, May I” with the neighborhood kids. Wii was you and me playing together making our own fun. We rode our bikes and played on the swing set. And if we tired of that, the library reading program was an option in which we loved to participate. Reading 20 books over the summer entitled us to watch the latest movie at the Venetian Theater. Who didn’t want to watch a free movie with the price of movies at the exorbitant cost of $2.50 per ticket?! With my Flicks candy in hand, I was a happy camper.
While my children are growing up in an entertain me world, fortunately some things are still the same. We plow our way through books in the library reading program and win a free book after we accumulate enough reading points. Bike riding, pool and play dates continue. Still, I lament that video games, texting and online games threaten a family takeover if I don’t regulate its usage. Taking road trips is vastly different as we’ve traded looking-out-the-window scenes for viewing the movie screen although we still enjoy a couple of rounds of the “ABC” game. Wearing ipod earbuds, our children don’t even hear us when we ask them to notice mountains, cows or road kill.
Hope is on the horizon, however. A day will come when these same children will be driving inside yellow and white lines, passing road signs, and noticing cantering horses in wide grassy fields, dvd watching a distant memory. They will combat with the latest technical gadget, begging their little ones to look up and see the beauty around them.  Some new fangled gizmo will menace their family togetherness. I can hear the cry for the good old days.  “Ah, whatever happened to ipads, ipods and iphones?”

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