When I was a kid, we didn’t have cable. Or even a working TV sometimes. We definitely didn’t have video games or cell phones. And nobody I knew did either.
Summer meant being outside all day. We would only come inside for food and water. And not always even water because we could always drink that warm, rubbery water from the hose. I’m pretty sure I recently read that it is considered a carcinogen now.
I had some friends as a kid that weren’t even allowed inside their own house in the summer. They had to ask permission to go inside, even to pee. And while we were allowed inside at my house, we didn’t ever want to be there.
When I was 10 we moved to a small town right next to the ocean. We were one bridge and about two miles away. The bridge was one of those huge ones that the boats traveling down the intercoastal could pass under without anything being raised and lowered.
That bridge was a bitch to ride your bike up. I never successfully managed it. But it had these massive embankments leading up to support it. Like four giant hills guarding the bridge.
My brother T, sister J and I would go hang out behind the local businesses at the base of the bridge. We would wait till they threw out a few cardboard boxes. Then we would climb into the dumpsters and pull out some nice big pieces of cardboard.
On a semi-related note, we also used to play in this giant shipping crate that they used to collect newspapers for recycling. It was literally a steel box full of old newspapers. I have no clue what the draw was, but I remember it being fun. Those were dark and desperate times for entertainment.
We would rush away from those empty lots and dirty dumpsters, sometimes with shop owners yelling at us to keep out of their trash. We would take our stolen cardboard down to the bridge and climb the embankment.
Then we would sit on the cardboard and push ourselves off and slide down the hill. Those embankments were the highest hills we had ever seen. It was thrilling.
We would slide down the embankment for hours until the cardboard was torn into tiny, useless shreds. Or until someone got hurt. Getting hurt was always the universal symbol for us to go home.
But there was this one time that my piece of cardboard had been damaged before anyone else’s. And rather than wait my turn, I thought I would try to see what happened if I tried to roll down the hill on my side.
I don’t recommend this to anyone.
I made myself sick (because I get ridiculous motion sickness) and tore my favorite pair of shorts. They were just a simple pair of elastic waistbanded shorts that my mother had made. We were so poor that she made a lot of our clothes. They were white with rainbow pinstripes. They went with everything I owned and made me legs look extra tan. I really miss those shorts even though they would never fit me now. They were my Technicolor Dream Shorts.