Decades of good old American greed may have destroyed the days when a gas station owner would dare lose out on a buck and put out a cooler of soda's for kids wandering aimlessly on a summer day, but time has not destroyed the essence of that passage -- the limitless bounds of a child's summer day.
"Every day in the summer [the gas station owner] filled the cooler with big blocks of ice and the bottles of pop just floated there in the melting ice, making it the coldest and best-tasting pop in the world. That cooler of pop was a mecca for kids on a hot day". - Richard Brautigan, So the Wind Won't Blow it All Away.
Yet the point is not what we would do that day, but what couldn't we do? We had full authority over the streets of the neighborhood, save for an occasional invading car. We had full roam over the yards of the neighborhood, as we treated them as if they didn't belong to anyone but us, not to mention a vast expanse of forest at the edge of the neighborhood. And we had an array of basement hangout's to choose from, with limitless supplies of fruit snacks and kool-aid to top it off. No two days were the same.
I can picture the scene now, picking out nickels from dad's change jar on top of the dresser, slamming shut the back porch screen door, sprinting through neighbors' backyards (and not thinking twice about it) with a pocketful of pennies and nickels jangling with each stride, darting between sprinklers and finally arriving to the street corner where you and your buddies had promised the night before to meet bright and early. We began our trek to purchase slushees and candy bars from the gas station just as the last of the neighborhood vehicles departed for work and as the sun slowly ascented, getting hotter with each passing minute. Though the distance was only a mile or so, it seemed like a grand expedition to us, as any trip outside the world that is your neighborhood seems to a kid.
The distractions along the way were endless: an ant parade down the sidewalk, an empty coke can to kick, an errant potato chip laying in the sidewalk that someone would undoubtedly be dared to eat, a fence to climb, a stretch of "lava" on the sidewalk that needed to be avoided at all costs, conversations about things that seem important when you're young -- baseball card collections, how to beat the next level of Mario, ways to earn money to buy that next video game. Each distraction presented a journey in and of itself, but at last we arrived at our destination.
As we slurped our slurpees on the journey back we pondered the possibilities of the day. What shall we do? One of us suggested building a bridge over the river out of logs found in the woods. Another wanted to play capture the flag in the neighborhood yards. One was hell-bent on the idea of a all-day basement quest to finally beat the video game that had been eluding us for so long. The only conclusion we could come to was that we couldn't decide on what to do.
As I'm buttoning my shirt, tying my tie, and brushing my teeth day after day in a monotonous routine this summer, those days will be lurking somewhere in the back of my mind.