For me, it usually meant some type of neighborhood pick-up sports as an elementary school kid. We played football in the Fall, basketball in the Winter and baseball in the Spring and Summer. On occasion we even mixed up the seasons a bit for variety. For a change of pace, sometimes the family would take a little trip to a beautiful park for a picnic or even go to a movie that was appropriate for all of us. And then there was always a group getting together for an adventurous bike ride, seeing how far we could go without running out of gas.
It was a quieter time, a seemingly safer time and since everyone knew everyone in the general neighborhood, mischievous behavior was self-checked for self-preservation. We knew that Mom would know if we did something bad, usually almost before it actually happened. It was a long time coming before I realized that she didn't really have eyes in the back of her head.
We didn't have all the safety gear that kids wear today and it allowed us to be more flexible and nimble. I sometimes think the gear creates as much of a problem as it supposedly solves, blocking vision and the ability to move quickly when needed, but it's true that many of us still sport examples of the injuries that befell us as we played football without helmets or pads, road bikes without helmets or guards and used our hands unprotected in often bitterly cold weather. There is something about catching a hard football or basketball on the fingertips on an icy winter day at an outside playground that is never forgotten. Bleeding fingertips, bloody noses on occasion and bruises and bumps were common, but good old Mom always had the remedy to cure what ailed us. Sometimes the cure seemed to hurt more than the injury, but in the end Mom knew what was best.
A really special time was the occasional snowstorm that was really a novelty in Tidewater Virginia. Where there was a will there was a way and we always managed to make a sled raceway even though the land was flat. And as a special treat we would hitch a ride up to the hills by the Bridge of Lions at Lake Maury near the Mariners Museum and spend a Saturday afternoon sledding. On occasion, one of us would fail to stop in time and go in the drink, necessitating sitting wrapped in blankets with the heater on in the car while the others got in a few more runs.
I even remember a number of times when a group of us tried to create our own track meet in the neighborhood, using our park centered street as the running track and the vacant lot next to my house for events like the shot put. A large chunk of rock was substituted for the shot and invariably someone would get in the way of the longest toss. Ouch! But not to worry, Mom was a nurse and she handled it well while she shook her head at our antics.
As we grew older, things changed. While we still had some pick-up neighborhood games, high school brought different interests which, of course, included girls. But we still looked forward to the weekends as a great change of pace from reading, writing and arithmetic. And now, as an older adult, weekends just aren't the same. Actually, they haven't been the same since leaving childhood for the adult word with responsibility, schedules and commitments which had to be lived up to governing our actions.
And to think, we couldn't wait to grow up. Mom always said we'd miss the good old days and she was right. Even so, they can't take away the wonderful memories. I hope yours are grand ones, too.