I remember growing up in Tampa, often on weekends several of us kids in my neighborhood spent a lot of unstructured time just playing and exploring. We road our bikes to each others houses and then road together up to Macfarlane Park. We spent hours there riding bikes, running up the hill and rolling down he hill or swinging and day dreaming. We took swimming lessons at the community pool. We watched little league games at the ball park. We would ride back to one of our homes and grab lunch then hit the wooded area behind the Postmen’s Hall on Cypress. There we spent time pretending we were tarzan or pirates. We had a rope tied to a tree and would swing on it across a ditch. Pieces of cast off wood from some construction dumped in an empty lot became our swords.
When the sun began to go down, we would each make our way home for dinner, a bath and to hear the stories the adults told. There was no air conditioning, no color t.v., and the phone was connected to a party line. This meant that several blocks of homes shared the line. When you picked up the phone, you listened in on someone’s conversation. Front porches were a gathering place to relax and unwind before going to bed. The mosquito man would pass by spraying a cloud of poison. The kids would chase after the mosquito truck and played in the poison. Yes, and our parents’ let us. Sometimes when the cousins came to visit and the adults were busy talking, playing dominoes, and drinking, the kids got to stay up late in the backyard playing. This was a fun time and although far from ideal, that time spent just being kids was so important. Our imaginations just ran wild taking us to all sorts of imaginary places.
This weekend I enjoyed watching my 9 year old grand daughter Ella, and her friends running all over the lakeside, up the streets to her friends house, back with additional kids, in and out of the boat, yelping in glee over something they found, or shrieking when they found a snake. They were mesmerized by a hairy caterpillar, and thought it was awesome to find discarded snake skin near the king snake nest by the edge of the lake. Ella’s friend came to wake her up at 9:30 a.m. and by 10 a.m. they were out the door and only came back inside to eat lunch, then they were gone again. At 6 p.m. I walked up two houses to retrieve Ella, and found the kids playing football in the neighbors house, and doing a summersault competition. What fun!