A neighbor friend keeps a huge schedule board in his family kitchen. I mean huge. And I mean schedule. It is not HIS schedule mind you—it is for his kids this summer. It covers almost an entire wall and looks like something you might expect to see in a war room at the Pentagon.
All the events, appointments and exact times of the kids’ summer itinerary are written out: Monday—7: 30-8:30am, swim lessons; 8:45-11:00am, violin lessons, 11:15-1pm, baseball practice, etc. It is an appointment calendar so complete that the only thing not officially planned is breathing.
When I was a youngster (back in the previous century) nobody kept a summertime schedule for my siblings or me. Oh sure, I had the occasional Little League game—but once the game was over my day was free. And I was very well rested, as you would expect from someone who sat on the bench for several innings.
During the school year, I had to be dragged out of bed each morning. But in the summer, I bounded up at morning’s first light. Then, I would move quickly across the room, close the curtain and go back to sleep.
Not that those days were not filled with activities.
First, I was a voracious reader—familiar with all the writings of the Roman scholar Voracious.
But I also had a wide range of interests from Superman to Archie. I was not fond of Baby Huey, but forced myself to read him anyway so that my summer education would be well rounded.
Then, my brothers and I would go outside and play with our “guys. “A guy was our generic term for those tiny plastic army soldiers and cowboys. Our guys never stood around and discussed current events. They were always fighting. And there were never any tiny plastic girls trying to step in and be reasonable.
For my birthday one year I got a G.I. Joe. Perfect! Now our guys had a giant to fight.
One summer I briefly started a new hobby: making model cars and planes. I wasn’t any good at it—and the completed models never looked a thing like the ones on the box cover. A friend who lived down the block was far more skilled, and spent hours at it. He told me he enjoyed the challenge of following directions and assembling complex objects. But years later, he admitted he just liked being around the glue.
For summers without an actual schedule, there was still a lot to do. Building forts, for example. The easiest fort was right there under the bedroom blanket cover—just use a baseball bat as a tent pole, and presto. My brothers and I would all huddle inside, oxygen-deprived but happy. That is until the youngest brother—we called him Windy—put an abrupt end to things and forced immediate evacuation.
He was the same one whose spontaneous bubble creations forced immediate evacuation from the bathtub too.
For several summers, I did have one regularly scheduled week: summer camp. It wasn’t one of those specialty camps that are so much in vogue these days—church camp, soccer camp, computer camp, chess camp, math camp, toenail clipper camp—it was just camp.
There was no real schedule—except for the mosquitoes, which were so well fed they made the crows look small.
The place was about sixty miles out of town, right on a big lake—perfect for swimming, if 40-degree water and leeches didn’t bother you.
Everyone slept in big tents with wood floors and ants—except for the camp counselors who slept a few miles away in a Best Western with cable TV and a mini-fridge.
We campers ate in a mess hall where they served mess three times a day. The camp experience was…Hell. But as hells go, it was sure fun. Pure, lazy fun.
For the counselors, it was hazy fun. They’d discovered marijuana growing wild just off the nature trail.
Nowadays, many would say there is every good reason to keep kids’ lives more fully scheduled. After all, there is a widespread belief that left on their own they will get into mischief. Mischief, of course, is something that should not be gotten into until kids reach adulthood.
Then—once they are politicians, CEO’s or college football coaches—they can have at it.