Column: Long, lazy summer days of 'no time'
"No time!" That's a saying you usually hear together with something like, "Gotta run!" No time, as in not enough time, being behind schedule or having to rush.
When I was a kid, there was a different kind of "no time." There was no awareness of time, no thinking about it, no pressure from it.
When I was a kid ... Oh, man, does that sound old. Well, it's true. When I was a kid summer times were great. Part of what made them great was being oblivious to time. These days summer school-break is often shorter but school is out more during the year; a longer break around Christmas and other times. We had the more traditional schedule, a solid three months of summer break. It was an agricultural state, Ohio, and, so I've always been told, that's where that school schedule came from. From family farms needing the kids working on the farm during the summer.
I didn't grow up on a farm, rather in an old neighborhood, and didn't have to spend a lot of time on chores. On a typical summer day, on break from grade school, I would wake up, get dressed, run downstairs and eat some breakfast, jump on my bike, and be gone, sometimes until dinner.
We had a bunch of kids in my family and by the time I came along I think my parents were pretty relaxed about it, and maybe tired of it. My mom and dad had very traditional roles; my dad was busy with work and had little to do with the kids. We lived in a neighborhood of big families and if I wasn't in my own yard, chances are I was with one of the neighbor kids in their yard, so my mom figured there was bound to be some adult not far away, so she just didn't worry.
Her only time requirement during summer was to be home shortly after 5 for dinner. Then back out to play with friends until dark, and then back in the house.
The only distinguishing feature of the week was Sunday morning church. Catholic Mass. My mom would tell us in the morning to put on our Sunday clothes. I would get so lost in the sequence of playful days I would have no idea it was Sunday, and her telling us to get our church clothes on would catch me totally by surprise.
When I was in younger grades this would happen without my noticing it. When I was in high school I was too aware to lose track of what day it was. But for a few years at the end of grade school it was kind of a thrill to be caught off guard by Sunday. That meant I had totally lost track of where I was in time. And by the next Tuesday I probably would have lost track again.
Same thing when school was coming back around. I would totally lose track of how deep into summer we were. It's not that I couldn't have made a pretty good guess if someone asked, it's that the question never occurred to me. My friends and I didn't have much reason to think about it. In these big traditional families, some with mothers who were full-time homemakers, no one went to camp or did activities like that. People just assumed kids would make their own fun. And we did. We didn't need a kid's football league, but a big flat area in our back yard sure had a countless number of neighborhood football games played on it. Football and "keep away" and "smear the q..." Oh. Well, we didn't know what that meant then.
So when some newspaper ad, mixed in with the funnies, for "back to school" sales came up, it would be a shock. I would get mad about it, too. Why did they have to remind me? I could have been oblivious and thinking summer days were going to go on forever right up to the night before, when my mother could have just told me to make sure my school clothes were ready.
Ah, but that time spent lost in an oblivious string of days just being a kid. What a precious gift, to have had a chance to live in "no time." I hope there are still some kids out there living in it now.
Tom Cantlon is a longtime local resident, business owner and writer. Contact him at TomCantlon@TomCantlon.com.