Analog summer

fireI did not have an iPad when I was a kid. Or a cell phone. Or even video games. During the summer (and every other part of the year) my parents worked so I was one of those latchkey kids, roaming the city streets on my Huffy looking for trouble in all forms. If I wanted to play with my friends I would get on my bike to ride around the neighborhood until I found them. There was no texting. Imagine that.

Summer was unplugged. And it was bliss. I had more fun in the moments of discovering something new and different after hours of boredom forced me to seek entertainment.

I would spend my entire allowance on a brown paper bag filled with Garbage Pail Kid cards and cheap pieces of individually wrapped gum. My knees were always skinned. My babysitter would put Sun-In in my hair and I would run around the backyard stinking like peroxide while my locks turned a sickly yellow color.

The city pool was a 10-minute walk from my house. I had my spot near the diving board. I was terrified to dive into the water, but my towel approximation to the diving board guaranteed that all the kids would think I was a badass because at some point – any point – I could potentially get up and do some crazy Olympic flippy twisty dive.

I climbed trees, suffered bug bites without Google searches for the CDC, peeled sun burned skin from my shoulders, caught fire flies in jars, told creepy ghost stories to my little sister, had summer crushes, made mix tapes, and read dozens of books while hiding in the limbs of the world’s greatest tree in my backyard.

As an adult I miss the freedom of a lazy analog summer. I’m constantly worried about chores, kids, marriage, mortgage, neighbors, news, deadlines, bucket lists, schedules, and losing weight. I can’t jump on my Huffy and ride around until I find my friends anymore. I just open my Facebook app and read my newsfeed. It isn’t even remotely the same.

My husband built a stone fire pit in the backyard. He will chop wood until he has a pile neatly stacked near the fire pit and then he’ll carefully set up the twig and kindling teepee in the center of the stones. Then he lights it up. And soon the sky darkens and the smell of campfire wafts through our hair and sticks to our clothes. We pour a drink and sit on a log and listen to the sounds of quiet.

And just like that, all potent feelings of the potential for adventure, for falling in love, for skinned knees and new freckles comes flooding back. We trade slow stories about the stupid things we did as kids. We wonder what shenanigans our own kids will get into.

I wonder if they will know this feeling of slowing time and finding real adventures after being bored. I wonder how magical it will be for them.

sarah cottrell

About sarah cottrell

Sarah Cottrell is a member of the Stay-At-Home-Mom Club and proud herder of two loud boys. She earned her MFA in 2012 and then accidentally washed it in a load of laundry. Sarah's work can be found on popular websites like Mamalode, BlogHer, and Scary Mommy. Her work will appear in two new parenting anthologies in 2015.