I cannot sit with my children. I cannot stay home day in and out cleaning bathtubs and hanging clothes to dry. We become restive, smitten by the outside, romanced by adventure.
It’s this part of summer, the late season quell, that brings peace of reflection. I follow my children down sidewalks; let them pick up sticks to poke the ground, fill miniature pockets with stones, roll in the sand, and stamp dusty feet.
I’m still rebelling.
My childhood was spent at home watching Ma scrub the kitchen floor, down on her knees, buffing out the smallest scuff from black-bottom shoes. “Outside,” she’d say, “Go play outside.” And I’d scuttle off with my little plastic picnic basket heaping with little plastic plates and little plastic spoons.
Dirt cakes and grass pie.
Real buckle sandals impossible to do up.
An empty field of clover.
The neighborhood waited out its days in silence.
As if we were the only people left anywhere, Ma and I were home. We stayed put. I waited for the mailman. I yapped over garbage collections. By 5:30 I was hiding under the stairs expecting Dad to walk in with a pocket full of butterscotch candies, his work shoes scuffing the floor.
When I finally went to school I found out the other kids had parents who took them places on weekends and summer vacations, small adventures to lakes, boat rides, flying model airplanes over empty fields of clover.
Once a year, maybe twice, our family went camping. Governor Dodge State Park mostly.
My earliest memory: a tiny wooden chair with a hole and a tin pot waiting outside our huge yellow canvas tent, a morning of bribery, a trick to get me to sit and let it all hang out.
I’d put all of my childhood into one of those camping trips if I could, just fold it up and stamp it down. It was the marshmallows for me, I’m sure of it, marshmallows and a campfire and Dad probably breaking a hundred State Park regulations coaxing the raccoons from trees, enticing them with sweets.
I’m still a sucker for State Parks. Give me any random day with the scent of campfire on the air and I’ll pack up a bag of food and two wild girls faster than you can say, “Raccoons have rabies.”
These kids don’t scoff at the drive, I’ve been hauling them every-which where since they popped their little heads out and blinked at the wide world. “What should we do today?” I ask, honestly befuddled at the openness of our schedules.
They answer in tandem, “Adventure!”