Summer vacation has begun in earnest for children and teachers alike. I remember how I looked forward to summer vacation. Oh, our family took a few trips through the years, but mostly it was just a time to relax and be lazy.
Sleeping in was not an option. My grandmother expected me to be up by the time my mother went to work. I had chores to do every day, but none of them took the entire day. I could work for a while then have time to play with the kids in the neighborhood.
Sometimes I rode my bicycle to the playground. I liked to go in the morning because that is when they did the crafts. I really enjoyed the crafts.
I was an only child, so unless I left home I had no one to play with. Going to the playground was a social time as well.
My children were raised differently. When you live on a farm there are many things to do during the summer. The thing we liked best about summer vacation was the absence of a schedule. The children could stay up late at night because they did not need to get up early. We could come and go as we pleased.
My husband was not an early-to-rise farmer. Usually I was up well before he was. I am a morning person, and he was an evening person. The farm that he worked often had dew on until noon. The hay could not be cut or raked until it dried off. At least that was the excuse he gave me.
When the children were young we often took a walk or went for a swim in a nearby creek. Not many trips were made to the beach in those days. I can probably count the trips we made on one hand. The children did not feel deprived; that was just the way things were. They did not have a lot of play dates either. There were children from church who were regular visitors. As they all grew up, those children learned to help on the farm with chores. If they wanted to be with my children they needed to learn to work like they did.
Our children never went to camp. All of the fun happened at home. Their memories are as varied as can be. Many events happened with the cousins who lived just up the road. They were best friends because the men worked together. We combined to fix meals. The after-haying meal was a leisurely one unless rain was on the horizon. If it looked like it would rain all of the machinery had to be put away. Then supper was rather hurried. The men were also in a hurry to get the cows home. It was not fun being out in the pasture chasing cows when it started to rain.
I only remember my husband missing a milking one time. There was a bad summer storm that brought rain in buckets. My patio stairs looked like a waterfall. When we went off the hill to see how everything else fared we found that the creek had swollen to a dangerous height, and the cows could not get back to the barn. It was a good thing it was during the summer when many of the cows were dried off. They were gaining strength to be ready to calf in a couple months.
Farmers take good care of their animals. Animals are their livelihood. If it was not for the cows a dairy farmer would not be able to make milk to ship to the processing plant. Milk was the cash commodity.
I was not one of those mothers who was happy when school started up. Even though I was not working when the children were small I enjoyed every day that we spent together. I thought up games to play. The children made up their own games. Even though I had a boy and a girl they played together because they were friends.
If I mention the Chip-a-Roo Bunk House I always get a laugh. We saved some sort of labels and sent away for this plastic contraption that fit over a card table to make a playhouse. The children had hours and hours of fun with that thing. It was sometimes set up in the house, and sometimes it was set up outside. The porch was a favorite place because they could move it out of the sun there. The guns and holsters came out. The big bandanas covered faces. They knew how to be cowboys like they saw on television.
The children each had a play horse and a doll to ride it. Todd had Johnny West and the Indian. Jill had the female counterpart. She found out quickly that Barbie dolls were not made to ride those horses. We had a one-legged Barbie for years after her leg broke off trying to ride the horse.
I do not think children even play that way anymore. What a shame that is. Imagination is good. It is creative. I am not sure what the children write about today, but in many cases their experiences are limited. Oh, they get to play many sports, but often that makes them mini-adults rather than children. They have lost those innocent years of just plain fun.
I love to watch our boys play. They have a language all their own. They dig out the guns - or fingers or sticks if none are available. They run around the yard chasing each other or the imagined enemy. As I listen to them whoop and holler I am thankful that we live in the country where the neighbors will not complain.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.