Maven Moment: My Childhood Summers in Brooklyn

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Memorial Day weekend puts me in mind of the summers I spent in Brooklyn in the 1960s and 1970s. For my sister and me, Memorial Day was the official start of the summer.

We played outside, riding our bikes and roller skating up and down the street. Jumping rope, games of hopscotch and Red Light, Green Light 1, 2 ,3!, and other activities kept us occupied for many happy hours, oftentimes long after the street lights came on. With school out, we didn’t have to worry about homework, but on rainy afternoons, we could spend hours with comic books or whatever else we wanted to read.

We also had our own “park,” which was the backyard of Grandma Jennie’s house. There, we had a kiddie pool, a swing set, a big tree for me to climb, and Grandma’s beautiful rose bushes.

For me, the evening and nighttime were some of the best times to be a kid back then. Sometimes, when the ice cream truck came down the street, we could get popsicles for dessert. When it got dark, we were allowed to sit outside on the stoop — in our PJs! And of course, there was the time-honored tradition of catching fireflies to watch their lights flash on and off.

The big events of the summer were the sparklers and firecrackers on the Fourth of July and the block parties with all of our neighbors. But there was plenty of time when my sister and I had no planned activities at all! It was great!

The way that we live and raise our children is so different now. Even “carefree” childhood summers are jam-packed with camps, play dates, reading lists, team sports, and even exotic family vacations.

We can’t return to the past, but we can benefit from its lessons by giving our children — and ourselves — some “time off” from the fast pace of life today.

I like the idea of waking up on a summer weekend morning with no plans for the day – just seeing where the day takes us. Do you want to sit in the backyard and read some magazines or take a long walk, smell some flowers, and stop for ice cream? Maybe you would like to play some old-fashioned street games like tag or hopscotch with your kids. You might be ambitious and take a field guide and go birding.

Unplug the TV, turn off your devices, slow down, and notice what’s around you. A blue sky or thunderheads on the horizon. The sounds of children laughing or birds singing. The sweet scent of freshly mown grass or the fresh smell of ozone before a summer rain.

I look forward to taking some time to appreciate the season. Those soft summer days lend themselves to some good restorative downtime.

Joanna, the Green Maven

About the Author

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.

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