When I was a kid, warm weather meant a lot of things. After breakfast, we usually headed outside and didn’t come back in until lunch. Lunch was a quick thing and we’d head back out until supper. After supper was the same thing; outside until it was too dark to do much.
This is not an uncommon story. Many of you can relate to this memory.
But are you like me, and remember when most of the older generation pulled out the lawn chairs and sat in their yards after supper? It seemed like the younger parents were too busy or too tired to appear at night. But the older folks who were empty nesters were the ones who had time to come out and survey the neighborhood, catch up on news maybe, and basically get a little fresh air.
In our neighborhood, we had a few such older folks. At times, the neighborhood kids would perch on the porch steps of those folks, hearing stories of when they were kids; days when they didn’t have air conditioning.
In those days, sitting out in the yard at night was a way to cool off from chores or a kitchen made hot from cooking supper.
Many evenings, our sno-cone man would come by in his converted meter-maid-three-wheeled-vehicle, seeing if any kid ventured out to the edge of the street to hail him. We weren’t spoiled kids, so none of us had change every night. But it seemed our parents would indulge us at least once or twice a week, and we’d all eagerly head out to wave excitedly at the traveling treat mobile.
The older folks in our neighborhood would be attentive audiences to our own stories or to an impromptu wiffle ball game in the front yard. Some of us might make a little sno-cone change by picking up sticks or some odd job, and evening was usually the time when we’d be told of such employment opportunities.
We’d get out in the streets to play “hot box” or ride our bikes and do all sorts of amazing feats in front of our retired neighbors.
Until it started getting dark.
Things began to wind down a little after the lightning bugs started appearing, and a few of us would wander over to someone’s steps to make plans for the next day or talk about what was on television that night. Rarely did we go inside one another’s houses to hang out. It just wasn’t something we did and our parents frowned upon it.
By the time the lightning bugs were in full force, our neighbors would be folding up their chairs and waving goodbyes to us. The rest of us would linger for only a bit, and then would head inside for a bath and settling down for the night.
I remember one exciting evening when I was quite small. The skies had looked a little unsettled before we came in for the night, and I remember some of the lawn-sitters telling us all we’d better get our bikes put away and get inside. There would be a storm coming soon, most likely.
Mom hurried us through bath time, and my brother and I were getting into our pajamas while the TV displayed weather bulletins.
Soon, the storm began, and there was some hail and quite a bit of wind. Terrified at that age, I felt safest in the middle of our house, sitting against the wall of our tiny hallway.
Like many summer storms, it moved swiftly and didn’t last for a long period of time. But just as the last rages of the storm were dying out, everything went black. The electricity was knocked out and you could hear a pin drop.
I am fairly sure the power stayed off for an hour or more, but to us kids it was forever.
It was also quite exciting.
Once the rain stopped, everyone ventured outside with flashlights to check for fallen limbs or frightened neighbors. Someone had a battery powered police scanner and usually knew what was going on. Word spread that a transformer had been hit and we would most likely be out of power for a good part of the night.
To us kids, it was strange and fun to be outside “past our bedtime” with all of our parents out there too. I really don’t know why we got such a charge out of it. We couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces and it was an eerie, wonderful feeling.
Familiar voices drifted through the night and our flashlights illuminated one another in their pajamas and tennis shoes.
But pretty soon, we all said our goodnights and headed back indoors, ending our blackout adventure. Still, I remember lying in bed next to the open window, listening to the quiet and basking in the darkness, knowing that everyone was around to take care of their neighbors and support one another.
Feeling safe and sound.
People don’t sit outside after supper anymore, or at least I don’t see them. Maybe it’s because I’m one of those busy parents. Maybe it’s because I am not watching closely enough.
Yes, I’d return to those days in a minute; if for nothing else than just taking the time to sit in the yard for a little while.