Friday, June 20, 2008

No camp; just skates

Every year a local news station sponsors Camp 4 Kids (they are channel 4, get it?). They solicit donations for special needs children to go to camp.

So far I haven't donated, not because I'm cold-hearted but because I already donate monthly to the ASPCA, and sporadically to Doctors without Borders, to the National MS Society, to the Susan G. Komen Fund, and to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. If I donate much more anywhere, hubby will have my head.

One of the things they say in these commercials to try to get you to donate is, "Remember summer camp?" Why no, I don't. "Give the gift of those same memories to a child in need."

Well, hmm. If I gave my summer memories to another child, it wouldn't be of camp. Dad never let us out of his sight, certainly not for overnight camping trips. In fact I have never been camping at all. I have, however, lived in a car. I'll save that for another story. I think after living in a car, though, camping loses its appeal anyway.

I've noticed from some of the blogs I read that many of you have been to camp or are sending your kids to camp this summer. It always seemed like one of those things that other people did, people in movies, people with money, people who trusted their kids. I was curious about it, but I was also glad that I wasn't expected to go learn to swim or demonstrate my complete lack of coordination. I didn't want to be in a cabin with other girls who would pick on me, since that was the type of kid I was. (I didn't know that the clumsiness was from the Chiari. Found that out m u u u ch later).

When I was a kid, I spent my summers roller skating - not in the rink, because we weren't allowed to go there - on the sidewalks and on the street. When Dad was at work, Mom would turn me loose outside. When my brother was old enough, he was gone to work or out riding his motorcycle with friends. I hung out with the girls in a two-block radius, and we liked roller skating, pretending we were speed skaters or figure skaters. One of the girls' mother had been a figure skater when she was young, but she no longer resembled the woman in the black-and-white photographs. Raising three children with epilepsy had taken its toll on her.

A girl across the street had parents who were artists. They had a handpainted sign that hung in the long windows of the converted garage: "Wodrich." My parents thought that was tacky, but then again, we had a dead '65 Dodge Dart in our driveway that my brothers and I were constantly tinkering with. (I learned to change a tire and change the oil from them). Their children were likewise artistic, aloof, and mysterious. Sometimes they played, sometimes not. Sometimes they mused under the big shady pine in the front yard. Sometimes, they were at camp.

Another girl who was quite fickle about when she wanted to hang with us would wear a cheerleader-type outfit and would twirl in circles around us, showing off. She had a horribly mean brother whom my best friend in junior high developed a serious crush on. She couldn't believe I didn't think he was cute. I couldn't believe she'd want to date someone who was a thug. He's a guy I suspect has done some time behind bars.

Skating was hard on the body. I frequently fell, because I didn't have "shoe skates," the kind that were fitted little boots that most people are accustomed to seeing now. I had the kind of skates that Joni Mitchell sang about. A pair of roller skates that needed a key. They frequently loosened up while I was speeding down the cement. I had many scabs on my elbows and my knees. Sometimes I had scabs on top of scabs, because I didn't really care. I was having fun! No helmet, no knee or elbow guards, no nothin' - just me and the road.

There were other things we did in the summer, too, but skating was my favorite. It wasn't until I broke my left arm for the second time while on those skates that my mom finally asked me to hang them up. My parents had no insurance, and doctor bills then, like now, are very costly for those who self-pay. Reluctantly, I hung them up.

On skates, I felt graceful, though. Amazingly I learned to balance, despite my lack of balance most times. I learned to glide through the air, swiftly racing my friends to the end of the road and back. Our quiet tree-lined street was mostly silent during those long summer days except for the sound of our metal wheels pounding the pavement, scraping and pushing us along. The wind spreading our hair into ribbons, we fell - panting - into the cool grass of my front yard, forgetting who won, knowing Mom would soon bring drinks out on the front porch for us. Hard to believe that Mom was younger then than I am now.

Oh how I miss those days!

Peace - D


Josie said...

You know, those summer days sound like more fun than the "structured" camp days. I spent my summer days bike riding and roller skating too (with the skates with the little keys), and I never went to camp. But I always remember my summers as being wonderful.

SandyCarlson said...

I love this post. Camp was for other people when I was a kid, though I did plenty of camping. We didn't have a lot of money, so we made the most of the sidewalk, the toys, the books, the water....

I was a swimmer. In the water I felt graceful. How I loved that!

Momma said...

Josie - It sounds as though we had similar summers. Great, weren't they? No video games, no endless DVD movies. Just sunshine, sweat, and fun.

Sandy - Thanks! I'm glad it brought back some good memories for you. I learned to swim much later in life - at 41! I am still proud of overcoming that fear of water, finally!

Peace - D

tysdaddy said...

I never roller skated much. As a fat kid, the ground hurt more. But I do have some cool memories entangled in the laces of a pair of roller rink skates.

Nice memoir. Good reading for a Saturday morning . . .

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

Momma, I can relate. THose were the kind of rollerskates I had too, although mine had four metal corners that my shoes fit into, not the leather straps that appear in your photo.

I did a post about summer camp a while ago...I never went away to summer camp either, but like you, the city held plenty of things to do and charms for us kids.

I'm glad you have those happy skating memories, and it was too bad that the skates had to be hung up....I hope you found a suitable recreational substitute. I had a banana seat bike that spelled freedom for me. Did you?

Momma said...

Tysdaddy - I was a fat kid, too. But my memory of myself is of being so much bigger than I actually was. Being that I had to get my clothes from the Sears "Chubby" department, I was plenty mortified when shopping.

Lavinia - I had a bike with a banana seat, too - weren't those great? My bike became my best friend when I had to toss the skates.

Peace - D

Hilary said...

What a wonderful, nostalgic post. You brought back the memory of roller skating as a kid so well. I remember the feeling of the skate losing its grip on my shoes and dangling instead by the ankle strap. I also remember the tingling feeling which tickled my feet once I stopped. Thanks for the memories. :)

Not Afraid to Use It said...

What a great post. I remember skating around my block for hour and really having a great time. It is a shame so many neighborhoods are no longer built with sidewalks. Esp. in GA. What a stupid thing to do. Where are the kids supposed to play? Yes, we did play in the street, too, but skating in the street was too bouncy. And then they complain that kids never go outside.