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The freedom we had in childhood then, to invent our own play and make our own adventures, is a gift.

The sound of my father's push mower whirring up and down the back yard meant it was time to jump out of bed, pull on a striped T-shirt, shorts and Keds sneakers to quickly start the summer morning; there was no time to waste when one is ten years old and full of plans for the day. After a quick breakfast of Cheerios, the screen door slammed behind me as I raced out to join the neighborhood kids gathered under a large shade tree filled with chattering birds. The choices were endless, like our energy.

Our metal roller skate wheels clacked as we raced dangerously fast down the sloping sidewalk, with a click each time we raced over a sidewalk crack, finally speeding onto a grassy lawn at the bottom, stopping just as the sidewalk ended. What an exciting sound that was, almost as good as the thwack of the playing cards clothes-pinned to our bicycle wheel spokes as we imagined we were racing motorcycles, probably annoying the neighbors as we raced up and down the street. The large dog from a block away, Laddie, often raced alongside of us, barking wildly in joy, until we sent him home with a dog treat. Dogs and kids were just sent outside to play on a summer day back then; parents didn't worry about where we were or what we were doing unless we didn't come home for a meal. We took our freedom for granted.

My mother's shrill gym whistle often reached me while I was high up in a tree; other mothers just shouted, while one rang a ship's bell, all to summon us home for lunch. While eating PB&J I loved to listen to the soft calling of the Mourning Doves on the telephone wire outside the window. My mother called them "stupies" because they are the dumbest of birds, but knowing the call was a lonely bachelor looking for a girlfriend, I wished him well even if he wasn't very bright.

Hot afternoons rang with screams as we ran through the cold lawn sprinklers, or with the quiet bouncing of a rubber ball as we scooped up jacks from the sidewalk. This was just before the polio vaccine was available, so we were careful to not get too tired, as family friends had lost a son to the disease, which terrified our parents.

After dinner, it was Red Rover or Hide-and-seek in the twilight as the streetlights came on. The locusts began to buzz, my favorite summer sound on a hot evening. The hotter the night, the louder the buzz, and the sound still brings me back to those nights. Then once again, I heard the whistle saying it was time to come into the house, leaving the soft summer night and my friends. The freedom we had in childhood then, to invent our own play and make our own adventures, is a gift one can appreciate even more now that the streets are empty of children, busy on phones and computers. If they only knew what they were missing.

Peggy Keonjian is a member of the Jottings Group of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.


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