Recently I found a group on LinkedIn that gave me yet another outlet for my writing. Each day we are given a prompt to use for inspiration. This challenge was to think of two things I loved to do as a child and to write about one of them.
What would I consider to be my most loved childhood activities? The two that come to mind would be camping out in the back yard in my Dad's WWII era tent and riding my bicycle throughout most of our county roads. By far, my favourite of the two would be camping.
Dad had been a soldier during WWII, which made me quite an after-thought in his plan for a family, since I fell into the tail-end of the Baby-Boomers. Despite their ages, my folks still made sure I had lots of fun as a child.
One of our activities was when the neighbour girls and I would sleep on folding lawn chairs in a secluded part of our back yard directly below our breakfast room windows. Protected from the street lights and hidden between lilacs bushes and the retaining wall for the terrace, all that we could see were back lawns spread out in front of us.
We would spend our summer nights in sleeping bags on these lounges until I was twelve. At first we used the old style metal chaise lounges which had a bar that ran directly under our backs when they were fully reclined. Eventually, our parents began replacing them with chaises that had plastic straps. These felt so much better and made sleeping much more comfortable - except for those times when someone didn't lock the legs and so a sudden shift in their sleep would sent them to the ground.
The only times we couldn't sleep "under the stars" was during fair week. You see, we lived two blocks from the county fair grounds. A great location for a kid but uncomfortable for parents. Once the carnies were out of town, we could go back outside at night again. My folks and two of my neighbours kept their homes unlocked so that we could run inside if we needed, and sometimes we did. Usually on nights when it would suddenly rain we would end up on my screened-in porch three stories above my backyard, where we had been sleeping.
After I turned 12, my Dad took his tent out of hiding in our basement and set it up for us. This was a tall canvas tent which had an umbrella-like frame and an awning in the front. Dad decided the tent would work best behind our garage - another secluded area. We had a hedgerow on one side and a huge Jasmine bush on the other, the garage behind us and the two 30 foot Maples overhead. Four of us could sleep comfortably and there we stayed all summer.
Across the lawn, just over the property line was "The Fort". This was a wood and pajco construction building that the boys had built on the neighbour's lawn and from which we were banned. Well, everyone but I. They paid me a dollar a week to clean and I was allowed to hang out if they weren't in it (I would bring a book and lounge around, reading). Any patch repairs were done with more pajco, of which we had an endless supply. One of my neighbours was manager at the plant so he would bring us scrap rolls whenever we needed them.
Our sleep-outs didn't involve much sleeping. We lived in the next block from the school and just two blocks from "Downtown". Every night we would go to Mercer's Dairy and buy Doritos and soda. Then we would go to the kindergarten playground and eat while we played on the swings and other equipment. Around one or two am we would head over to the tent and play one of the many board games we had stashed away. Occasionally I would get over-tired and break out into fits of hysterical, uncontrollable laughing - but it always passed and we went on with our fun.
Somehow we always managed to wake with the chill of the morning and raid whichever kitchen had the best breakfast foods.