Sunday, June 26, 2011

The 99% Rule

It is already the final Sunday of June.  Holy smokes.  Where does the time go?  I presume that by this relatively late day all of the kids who were supposed to graduate from high school this year have in fact done so - although given the amount of days lost to snow and other wintry precipitation this year it would not surprise me to see school buses on the road into the middle of July.  I know that Middlesex High School's graduation was Wednesday night.  I wonder - I have not yet seen him to ask - whether my landscaper Frank was the one kid in his class rooting for a rainy day.  Not that he had any interest in putting a damper on his big night but given that his business this time of year is weather-dependent, I had visions of him spending most of the ceremony agonizing over how much money he was losing by walking as opposed to working.  Judging by the photographs I saw, he and the rest of the '11 Blue Jays had a very nice, albeit hot night for their graduation. 

I know that in my sisters' households (well in 2 out of 3 of them at least) there is a child for whom this is a summer of transition:  high school graduate morphing into college freshman.  For parents and children alike in those homes, I reckon that this summer will fly past in half a heartbeat.  Actually, if my memory is not playing tricks on me entirely, then I seem to recall that as a kid summer always seemed to go by too fast.  Lots of fun.  Not enough time. 

My children are not in fact children any more.  They are adults - in their mid-20's - and making their way in the world (for present purposes Suz's way has its home base a room at the top of the stairs in our house, which I suspect thrills both Suz and Margaret more than I could ever possibly fathom).  While they were teenagers in the age of everyone having a cell phone and video gaming systems that made my Atari system look like....well Pong I suppose - they were at least able to enjoy the "moppet" era (what Mom used to refer to as the "single digits") of their life in a pre-technology age. 

Summer days were spent reading books, working on projects (including quite entertaining stage productions), playing outside and simply being kids.  For one month every summer, Margaret and crew packed up and headed south to Silver Beach, which is a little sliver of a community a hairball north of Lavallette.  During that month the kids spent their days either on the beach, in the ocean or hanging around the house talking and playing games with one another and everyone else who was around, including their grandmother and their great-grandmother.   Life was pretty simple.  And life was good. 

I worry sometimes - in the uninformed manner in which one who does not have moppets in the house any longer - if kids are missing out on being kids these days.  There are so many gadgets to entertain them.  So much stuff to keep them busy - or perhaps more importantly from the parental perspective - to keep them (a) quiet; and (b) from driving mom and dad crazy.  And there seems as if there is a veritable glut of things for kids to do:  go here, do this, see that.  It sure seems as if there is a lot going on.  Tough to be a parent of a little one these days and try to channel your inner Goldilocks in assessing your child's summer schedule.  Presumably, "just right" exists somewhere on the continuum between "not enough" and "too much".  The secret is trying to figure out exactly where.

I enjoyed the hell out of summer as a kid.  Through age 13 (the summer of '80) we made our annual pilgrimage to Harvey's Lake, Pennsylvania.  With the exception of interruptions to participate in one of the old man's seemingly ceaseless supply of "Idiot Projects", my days were spent swimming and water skiing. 

After Dad died on Memorial Day '81, we never summered there again.  Mom sold the house a few years later - although I do not recall when exactly.  Although the lake ceased to be part of my life, lazing my way through summer did not.  For the next few summers (until I was old enough to drive so I could get back and forth to work), I spent my days hanging out with my pal Doug Carroll.  We lived miles beyond nowhere's middle in Neshanic Station where so few people then lived that no one around us could even get Cable TV.  No cable company considered it economically wise to run equipment into an area where so few lived.  It mattered not.  We spent our days shooting hoops, playing baseball with friends of his from his school and playing marathon Wiffle Ball games in his driveway. 

There were days of my youthful summers during which I was bored.  No doubt about it.  That is the perplexing thing about time I suppose:  one day could seem endless even though the summer as a whole flew by at warp speed.   I have not been a kid for a very long time but I reckon that the same holds true today.

I was driving home from a meeting on Friday and found myself driving through Bound Brook - on Route 28.  While the skies had been clear when I left my meeting about 30 minutes earlier, by the time I had made it to Bound Brook the rain was falling in what could fairly be described as torrents.  Brutal stuff.  And then something caught my eye off to my right on the sidewalk.  Two little boys (I would guess that neither was north of ten years old) splashing around in the pouring rain, laughing their fool heads off and getting soaked to the bone.  Neither looked as if he had a care in the world.  Both looked as if he would have paid cash money to have stayed in that moment - if not forever - then at least for the foreseeable future. 

And then it occurred to me that all I really hope for - when it comes to summer and kids - (even with my little blackened coal lump of a heart) is for every kid to have at least one such moment.  A moment of pure, unadulterated joy, created wholly by him or her (in this case with a glorious assist from Mother Nature) and unspoiled by either adults or high-tech gadgetry.  By the time I drove past them I think my smile was as broad as either of theirs....but given the relative paucity of their heads compared to mine I had a significant advantage.

Life is not available as an "APP"....not yet anyway.  Thank goodness.  It is simply out there.  Hopefully, it is out there for your child to enjoy.  What else is summer for?

Bust out/Bet like you're leaving/
Life ain't about/Just breaking even



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