I’m extraordinarily thankful for growing up when I did.
My two siblings and I—very close in age—played outside like it was our j.o.b. The three of us, along with our neighborhood friends, ran amok nearly every day, until that moment between dusk and dark, when my mom stepped onto the front porch and yelled, “Kids! Time to come in!”
I blew through the front door nearly every night an itchy, twitchy, grassy mess. Football was the number one culprit. “Two-below” somehow always turned into tackle (I also dove for passes and fumble recoveries more often than necessary.) Freeze Tag also required a good deal of grass time, as freeing my teammates involved frantically crawling under their legs. Add in popular staples like Hide and Seek and Red Rover and well, bath time was non-negotiable.
Side Note: Red Rover was not my friend. I never found a way to even marginally succeed at this unjust game. I was fast, but I was a twig. In hindsight, I probably could have been better than I was by just looking more enthused and confident when my name was called. As it was, this: “Red Rover! Red Rover! Let Anna come over!!” … led to this:
I’m not going to claim we were geniuses who could make a lasting game out of leaves and rocks, but we definitely went through some memorable phases. Many of them could be categorized as: Ways In Which Our Parents Allowed Us To Almost Die.
So yeah, we grew up with a trampoline. We had the kind pretty much no one has today—in that it was above ground (and on a somewhat un-level yard), had no padded bumper and had what was called an “Olympic mat.” This meant it was solid white and void of the little holes the black mesh mats had. In layman’s terms, it could blast you to the sky.
My dad taught all three of us how to do an array of flips and tricks. We were actually pretty good. The benefits of a trampoline were innumerable: fitness, body control, conquering fears. I’m thankful my parents looked past the multitude of dangers in allowing small children free reign of a death device.
My brother came precariously close to ruining the whole gig one day when, due to hapless timing on his part, he soared over my mom’s head as she stepped onto the front porch. He was jumping off the roof and onto the trampoline with his hooligan friends. Now that I think about it, why DIDN’T it ruin the whole gig for us?
The trampoline wasn’t always used in its intended way—but those were, hands-down, some of my best childhood memories. I’m not sure how this ever got parental clearance, but we’d hose down the mat with water and squeeze liquid Ivory soap on it for our very own neighborhood X-Games. Liquid soap, People! Liquid soap on a solid, non-draining mat. I’m sorry, WHAT?? No really, WHAT?! Anyway, thank you Dear Parents for being out of your ever-loving minds.
Our Lasso Phase:
Those may be three words you’ve never seen together. I’m not sure how it started, but we became obsessed with lassoing things—bedposts, doorknobs, each other. You might liken the shelf life for such a phase to that of organic bananas, but you’d be wrong. The time it took to perfect our instrument and master the Honda knot, coupled with the near-impossibility of successfully lassoing a DOORKNOB proved to be overwhelmingly difficult. For kids who had never expressed interest in ranching or been to a rodeo, we sure stayed committed longer than seemed logical.
Bruce Lee Phase:
This phase was most fully embraced by my brother and me.
Side Note: My sister hadn’t felt it was necessary to bother herself with karate techniques because she’d already defended my honor by putting a big time ass-whoopin’ on the scrappy neighbor boy who called me a “Honky.”
Anyway, my brother and I lived for watching Bruce Lee movies and then spending countless hours practicing moves. Mostly, we divided our time between two prominent activities: learning how to fall like stuntmen and using nunchucks as weapons.
Side Note: We actually didn’t use them as weapons. It was more akin to performing with a baton.
My brother thought it was gravely important to learn how to jump off things and land without breaking any bones. He insisted that it was possible to leap from great heights (his dresser) and, in one smooth move, hit, drop, roll and bounce back up—nary missing a beat nor registering the impact.
Since there was no way to substantiate his assertions with Google, I let repetition, practice and blind trust be my guide. I stand before you today, alive, to tell you that his beliefs were true from dresser height and abjectly false from atop the swing set.
Our nunchuck phase is something I look back on with substantially more shock than the trampoline. My dad even helped us make them—with dowels (i.e. broomsticks), eyebolts and chains. I will admit that we got very good at using them, but the speed with which we swung them around our face and cranium should have been cause for extreme alarm by our parents. My dad wouldn’t allow us to watch “Grease” but please, by all means, enjoy a near-death experience with your brother.
I remember falling to my knees in excruciating pain numerous times when I’d smack my own elbow. Would my dad take them away? Nope. He’d just “tighten things up” so they wouldn’t swing as freely. Thanks Legal Guardian.
Dirt Bike Phase:
My sister and I wanted no part of girly bikes. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t mind pink and we did adore the lovely shiny streamers—because we’re ladies—but they had to be dirt bikes. We rode the living daylights out of them with my brother and our neighborhood friends. We rode and rode and rode all over our streets and alley, but also on the hills and trails behind our house. Our Huffy bikes provided endless entertainment, adventure and exercise—as well as the perfect opportunity to sow our recklessness oats.
Side Note: I didn’t own reckless oats.
My sister was a fearless lunatic, so she was better than I was at popping wheelies. Oh, I could POP a wheelie, but she could RIDE a wheelie … all the way down the street while popping huge Bubble Yum bubbles. I watched from behind her in horror, imagining she’d pull back too hard or pass over a loose rock and take a layer of skin off her back. Although I was younger, I worried for her safety like a parent
should, often cautioning her about the dangers of living on the edge.
Of course, we all made it out in one piece. I don’t know what made my parents courageous enough to let us loose—allowing us to explore and play—not being deterred by occasional accidents and minor injuries. But whatever it was, I’m so grateful. I wouldn’t change a single thing about when, where and how I grew up.
Oh, except being relegated to sleeping in the back dash of the car on vacations, just because I was the youngest. What’s that you say? No seat belt up there? Not very safe? Yes, yes—I know.
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