Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Remembrances of Popsicles Past
It really is feast or famine here in the great white north. Every year we emerge from our caves after months of hibernation, revved up and raring to go for a few months of mild to hot weather. We spend the entire winter complaining about the cold and snow and as soon as the thermometer climbs over 25 degrees, we start whining about the heat. As an added bonus this year in Toronto, we can start complaining about the growing piles of trash being ignored by striking city workers. Aaahh yes, summer in the city. Nothing like the smell of rotting garbage everywhere to welcome in a new season. Adding to the foul smell all around, if this strike persists, the one place many would normally go to cool off on a 37 degree day (with the humidex), the local public pools, also closed. That means no swimming lessons for thousands of kids. One mom told me, that was going to be the entire organized activity for her kids this summer, what with the recession and all, camp was out of reach. Maybe they'll settle for a run through the sprinkler, but I doubt it. Today's kids need a schedule to adhere to; a destination. I may have been happy in 1964 with my spinning Donald Duck head on a pole attached to the garden hose, but today's children require a little more. Or is that just what we have come to believe? Frankly, I for one think most kids are way over programmed today. Looking back, I recall only one two-week period of swimming lessons at the local public pool. The class was for "pre-beginners". I failed. I failed because I refused to put my head under water when "bobbing". I was devastated. What kind of loser fails "pre-beginners"? I never went back for another lesson. My parents never cared. Hell, I wandered around the neighbourhood all day, all summer long. I knew I wasn't allowed to go past the 3 block area surrounding our house. Other than that, who knew where the hell I was; who cared? I taught myself to swim over the years in various back yard pools and northern lakes. I never got any special badges or honours, but I can save myself should the need arise. I always figured that was good enough. But no, not today. Today's kids have to get all their levels, compete with the Jone's kids for them. Then it's the bronze cross. This is a biggie. You may as well not even bother saying you can swim if you don't earn this badge. That's the one that gives you a shot at a summer job as a life guard. Too bad for all the kids who earned it recently and were planning to cash in on that coveted position this summer. Better luck next year. And it begs the question - how many jobs are actually available for life guarding here in Toronto? My guess is there are fewer jobs than qualified applicants, but maybe I'm wrong. It's a different world now - I know it and you know it. But just for once, it would be nice to see kids without plans. Our kids are so used to having plans, they likely wouldn't know what to do with themselves with out them. My daughter has never caught a polliwog, captured bumble bees in a jar with holes punched in the lid, taken care of a bird with a wounded wing in a shoe box, never pinched a piece of Timothy Hay between her thumbs and blown a tune and certainly hasn't ever played Kick the Can on a hot summer night with all the kids in the hood. Those were my summer activities. My reality. My low expectations. I think it was pretty idyllic looking back on it. Nobody provided me with an itinerary at the beginning of the summer. It just stretched out before me, seemingly endless. Nirvana. A walk to the corner store for a popsicle was considered entertainment. Who didn't love the challenge of trying to break it in two - smashing it against a curb or door edge? Who didn't get pissed off when it broke into more than two pieces? Did you share it with someone or eat it all yourself? These were big issues at 7. That's right - 7 years old, walking to the store 3 blocks from home, alone. Without an adult. Emma only started walking to school on her own at 11. And that was a stretch for some. Not sure where all this waxing nostalgic is coming from - must be the slowly rotating blades of the ceiling fan on this balmy summer night or the sound of crickets out the window. Who knows? It's always a nice trip though. Popsicle anyone?