Sprinklers and Sparklers and Freedom! Oh, My!

Long ago and far away, when metal feed-store thermometers dangled next to mops and buckets on the back stoop, heat indices weren’t yet in fashion.

In those far-away times, summer began with mirages: pools of imaginary water shimmering above the asphalt — swirling, receding, and evaporating before our eyes as we traveled.

In summer, heavy, breathless nights made sleep impossible. Even the heat-heavy trees murmured and complained as we dragged cots from the house and lay beneath the stars, surrounded and lured toward dreams by the chirring of unseen crickets.

When feathery blades of grass began crispening beneath an unbearable sun, sprinklers appeared: most commonly, four revolving metal arms that whirled ribbons of  water across lawns with a soft, rhythmic shush.

We delighted in running and sliding through the water, collapsing into giggles when we miscalculated and collided with a friend. As our play grew more exuberant, knees began to skin, and occasional howls of protest rose over delighted screams. At that point, doors flew open and a mother, grandparent, or neighbor would yell, “You kids dry off! Go find something else to do!”

And so we did. Sometimes, we hopped on our bikes and headed for the corner gas station, where a glass case overflowed with root beer barrels, orange slices, and soft, pliable circus peanuts. We bought candy necklaces, candy cigarettes with tiny pink flames, and Necco wafers: bargaining for our favorite flavors with the sort of savvy, ruthless determination a commodities trader might envy.

Twice each week, the Bookmobile parked in front of the grade school. One week we attended Vacation Bible School; another saw us transported off to camp, to enjoy hikes in the woods and tin-foil dinners. During half-day craft camps, we transformed popsicle sticks and plastic laces into mysterious, inexplicable treasures.

In short, summer was our time to explore, and to try new things. We learned to throw a ball, to ride a bicycle, to run a lawn mower. As the years passed, we set ourselves larger goals: walking with a friend to an uptown movie; daring the high dive: or navigating the town’s library stacks on our own.

If we hesitated from time to time, it was our own timidity that held us back, not the over-protectiveness of parents or caretakers. The rules were general, and common sense prevailed. Wear shoes on a bicycle. Be home by dark. Don’t eat all your candy at once. Never swim alone. Don’t fight. When you do fight, don’t hurt each other. Beyond that, we were on our own.

The pinnacle of summer was July 4th. After a morning parade, everyone set aside ball-playing and hopscotch to fold napkins, or put silverware and plates on the table. When the time for the picnic arrived, the traditional menu never varied. There were hot dogs and hamburgers on white buns, sweet corn, thick-sliced, vine-ripened tomatoes, potato salad, baked beans, brownies and pies. We ate our fill, then left the rest on the table for late-comers, or snackers who needed just one more spoonful.

If there was risk associated with leaving potato salad on the table for a few hot hours, we didn’t think much about it, and no one ever suffered. For that matter, we didn’t give much thought to dangers associated with our evening’s entertainment: boxes of red, white and blue sparklers we’d burn on the front lawn before heading to the park to watch the town’s fireworks display.

Over the past decade, I’ve thought about those fireworks from time to time. When a representative of a local hospital urged the usual caution about July 4th fireworks,  she commented, rather off-handedly, that no child ever should be allowed to hold a sparkler. By the time she finished listing the possible consequences — a blinded eye, a burned hand, a torched neighborhood — it was possible to imagine allowing a child a sparkler might bring down the whole of Western civilization.

Listening to her, I was astonished, and then appalled. I have no quarrel with restrictions on fireworks, or even their ban, in areas of drought or high population. However accidental, burning down an apartment complex or half a subdivision doesn’t fall into the category of celebration.

But fireworks safety in the absence of rain or the presence of crowds was not her concern. She meant to discourage every parent, in every circumstance, from allowing their child a traditional pleasure of Independence Day celebrations.


Certainly, those of us who grew up in the 1950s arrange our lives differently these days. Some changes are a direct result of increased knowledge, better judgment, and a desire for healthier, happier lives.

But other changes seem little more than grudging response to what’s been called the nannie factor in our society: the desire of self-appointed experts or general busy-bodies to control the behavior of people around them. As C.S. Lewis famously wrote:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busy-bodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end: for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

Lewis’s “omnipotent moral busy-bodies” also appear in Ian Chadwick’s essay on conformity. As Chadwick puts it:

Personal agendae do not benefit liberty: they hinder it. Pretty soon it’s dictatorship by committee – committees peopled with well-meaning, dedicated, but unelected members whose goals are to enforce their own personal vision of utopia. They erect increasingly restrictive rules that slowly squeeze the life out of a community and bleed it until it is colourless.

Such concerns may seem far removed from sparklers, sprinklers, and over-the-hill potato salad. On the other hand, as warnings against products and activities multiply daily, I find myself asking: are we in fact becoming a nation of nannies — Lawrence Durrell’s “old women of both sexes” determined to warn one another away not only from legitimate risk, but even from the richness of life?

The nation I love always has been a nation willing to allow its citizens to celebrate and live as they will – worshipping, parading, remembering, reciting, and, above all, participating in rituals that sparkle and sting like the reality of freedom itself.

In a world that dares to allow sprinklers, sparklers, and unrefrigerated mayo, can we slip and fall on the water-slicked grass that bends beneath our feet? Of course. Can we over-indulge in over-exposed foods, and suffer the consequences? Certainly. Can the sun or the sparklers burn; the bicycle tip; the bone break; the puppy nip? Yes, of course; yes to everything that can happen in a world where nothing is guaranteed.

But too much of the wrong kind of care can lead to paralysis and disengagement: particularly when what passes for care is little more than thinly-disguised fear. For those living in fear of what “might” happen, for those hungering to control what cannot be controlled, or for those who prefer to deny that brokenness, contingency, and pain always will be a part of life, there never can be enough care.

“Don’t you care about your children?” ask the experts. “Don’t you care about your health?” “Don’t you care about physical security, or the acceptance and approval of others?” Certainly, we care. But we care even more for life and freedom; for speaking with dignity and hearing truth; for celebrating and enjoying the gifts freely offered by the world.

In simple fact, those who choose to worry less and participate more often find that, most of the time, nothing happens at all. We run through the sprinkler without slipping. The sparklers light up the night, and the last bit of warm, wilty potato salad gets eaten, just because it’s there.

The children fall asleep, and as we tend to them in the darkness, the world sighs everyone home: safe, sound, and free as a bird crying through the deep summer night, careless and carefree at once.

Comments always are welcome. Photos used here were purchased from iStock.

115 thoughts on “Sprinklers and Sparklers and Freedom! Oh, My!

  1. Just listened to an NPR comment about allowing our children the freedom to experiment and to get hurt sometimes. I quote as my memory serves me: “Too much protection turns us into consumers, not creators.”

    1. How true that is, Myra. I’m convinced there’s a link between an over-protected childhood and the demands of college-age children for “safe spaces.” Accepting the fact that no completely safe space exists in this world, and learning to cope with that fact, used to be a sign of maturity.

      On a related note, there was some discussion at dinner last night about the fact that consumers tend to be passive, while creators are active. No one was willing to give up their iGadgets, but everyone agreed that obsessive use of the things was contributing to everything from the inability to use a paper map to obesity.

  2. Oh, you DO remember! You have just brought back so many memories for me! Thanks, Linda!
    (The song Remember just popped into my head… “Re-mem-mem, remember-member, re-mem-mem…”)

    1. Sometimes it’s a little unnerving, how much I remember. I made a reference to Harold Stassen the other day, and got the blank look I’m getting more often these days. No matter. There’s great pleasure in remembering, and sometimes some wisdom comes along with it. I’m glad you enjoyed the read!

  3. Following your brilliantly constructed lines of your narration of summer activities, imaginary pictures of Norman Rockwell floated inside my head.

    Very well said. Those were the “good ole days” when we were as free as a birds and life was as infinite as it could be.

    Your pictures of the children blend in appropriately with the blog post. Enjoy your summer days as much as you can. Life is only one. On this side of the world, it is very wet and cool.

    1. Some people don’t like Norman Rockwell at all, saying that the images of life he presented were idealized. To an extent, that’s true; there certainly was more to life than what he chose to show. Still, the human realities he highlighted — like a child’s first haircut, or a kid being chased by a Thanksgiving turkey — are so familiar that we can recognize them, even now.

      As for the good old days, I’ve always thought that Carly Simon got it just right in her song, “Anticipation.” These are the good old days — whether we recognize them or not.

  4. As one born on the Fourth of July, I salute your paean to freedom from do-gooders. I think that was the term used by H.L. Mencken, who also said: “Men are the only animals that devote themselves, day in and day out, to making one another unhappy. It is an art like any other. Its virtuosi are called altruists.”

    1. Steve, I’ve not heard that quotation from Mencken. It’s funny as can be, and worth remembering. I suspect that somewhere, sometime, there has been a do-gooder or two named Prissy. After all, it was Mencken who also referred to Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

      I remembered that your birthday was tomorrow. I hope it’s entirely happy, and that no one limits your freedom to celebrate precisely as you choose.

    1. Plastic may have replaced metal, and more efficient ways of getting water to grass have evolved, but I suspect the fun is the same. Well, at least I hope it is. I’d hate to think that kids today can’t at least run through a sprinkler.

  5. About the only fireworks we were allowed to handle were sparklers and roman candles… at least until we were old enough to shake adult supervision on this the greatest of summer celebrations. Summer backyards full of people and ice cream churns… block ice and rock salt. Some whose job it was to sit, and some who had graduated to the handle.

    Hot dogs, hamburgers, shoestring potatoes and watermelons… the feast of a kid.

    Thanks, Linda, for taking me on a walk down memory lane.

    1. I’d forgotten the watermelon. At my grandparents’ place, there always was a galvanized tub filled with ice and melons. The young kids enjoyed throwing that ice-cold water on the older ones, but woe unto anyone whose aim wasn’t good enough to avoid the adults.

      I still remember what passed for decorations, too. There was a flag at the front porch, and on the table, instead of “store-bought” things, there were red, white and blue flowers from the garden. Sometimes the shades tended toward the pastel, but I still can see those red zinnias, blue bachelor buttons, and white peonies. They were as pretty as anything that ever has been manufactured.

  6. What great memories your essay brings back. I do remember, however, someone getting badly burnt stepping on a sparkler with bare feet. After that, a coffee can filled with water appeared every 4th of July where our spent sparklers had to be put. And then there was the grass fire that almost made it to the house. But we all survived many things the parents of today would get in trouble for letting their kids do…like being turned loose in the woods from morning to dark with just a lunch in a bag and plans to build a fort.

    I spent my summers at a cottage with a lake so I don’t have the sprinkler memories but my very first kiss from a boy was on the 4th of July under fireworks. It doesn’t get much better than that.

    1. We did survive, didn’t we? It’s a fact that there were accidents from time to time, but they were considered aberrations. We weren’t heedless, and took precautions, but everyone accepted that occasionally things would happen.

      Besides, accidently stepping on a sparkler with bare feet is one thing. Forty people in Dallas burning their feet by choosing to walk over hot coals at a Tony Robbins seminar is something else.

      I love your “fireworks” memory. After a certain age, that would beat sparklers any time.

  7. You’ve brought back some lovely memories for me as well. And at the same time shown how attempting to remove all risk from children’s lives will do more harm than good. Let them take risks! Without risk how will they learn?

    1. You’re in good company with your comment about the relationship of risk to learning, Cynthia. In a recent post, Eric Berger, Senior Space Editor at “Ars Technica” responded to a NASA official’s comment that “failure is not an option” by writing this:

      “NASA’s legendary flight director Gene Kranz entitled his memoir ‘Failure is Not an Option,’ referring to his days in mission control from the Mercury missions through the Apollo program. That mindset helped Kranz and teams of engineers at Johnson Space Center heroically return the crew of Apollo 13 safely home. But there is a belief among some that, since the heady Apollo days, such an attitude has made NASA’s managers too timid and too risk averse.

      More than a decade ago, even before the failure of his first Falcon 1 rocket, Elon Musk had already made it clear he did not adhere to this belief. During an interview for a 2005 article in Fast Company, the founder of SpaceX gave what has become one of his most enduring quotes: “There’s a silly notion that failure’s not an option at NASA,” Musk said. “Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”

      There are echoes there of something once said by programmer Alan Kay: “If you’re not failing 90% of the time, you’re not aiming high enough.”

      So, you’re in good company. Without the opportunity to fail, there’s no chance to succeed — as your little guy with the tractor tread found out.

      Thanks so much for stopping by. You’re always welcome here. ~ Linda

  8. Beautifully said, Linda. As children we were free to wander where we wanted in summer, as long as we were home for dinner. I slept outside as soon as the weather permitted and didn’t go back inside until the fall rains arrived. If I wanted to get up and go for a walk at midnight, I did. We swam in every stream, pond and lake we could reach by foot or on our bikes. My dogs and I explored the woods for miles around. I’d hitchhike to Placerville to go to the library once a week and load myself down with books.

    All of the things we hear no, no, no about today we did and survived. Our lives weren’t scheduled down to the minute with organized, supervised activities. Our entertainment depended on our imaginations and we had big ones. Something precious and vital to growing up has been lost. –Curt

    1. A couple of years ago, a woman who spends more hours than she enjoys sitting in the drop-off and pick-up lines of an elementary school observed that she really wished she could allow her kids to walk to school, but she’d be arrested if she tried it. As she said, her school seemed to be more focused on regimentation than on math, geography, and sentence structure.

      Now that I think of it, I’m not even sure kids have “free periods” during the day. They certainly aren’t free during recess in many places. Everything from Red Rover to Keep Away to games of tag have been banned to “ensure the physical and emotional safety of students.”

      As one Mercer Island, WA mother said after a ban on tag and other “touching” games was imposed, her boy no longer played during recess. “He has been spending most of his recesses wandering around with his friend talking about video games, which is the last thing I want him to be doing.”

      There’s more than sugar involved in childhood obesity.

      I still can remember the heady exhilaration of that last bell, on the last day of school before summer. When it rang, and we all ran, pell-mell, into the great, three-month void, life was pure possibility. Today? Not so much.

      1. When Peggy was working as an elementary school principal, the majority of her students were within walking distance of the school, but most of the kids were driven to school. Long lines of automobiles would clog local streets before and after school. At a minimum, if moms were so concerned, you would think they could have walked their kids to school. But they didn’t. Peggy instituted “walk to school” days to counter the tendency and that helped, for a day or two. Obviously, we all share responsibility for this change, speaking from a societal perspective. But I think that the constant bombardment of instant negative media where every tragedy is repeated over and over and over, combined with the fact that every stubbed toe becomes a lawsuit waiting to happen, are major factors. Fear and greed are driving forces.

        1. Curt, the phrase I think is useful here is “prophet$ of doom.” The media are filled with people determined to gain fame, fortune, or both, by scaring people to death. If I took the time to whomp up the obligatory anxiety over ISIS, raw cookie dough, the stock market, Zika, skin cancer, and sitting, I’d barely have time or energy to get the laundry done. A little detachment, a little purposeful ignoring, a little tuning out of the screamers, is always a good thing.

  9. I so enjoyed your reminiscing about the summers of your childhood, and there were so many similarities to my own memories, especially the heat and bookmobile and riding my bicycle to the gas station…but as we lived out in the country, it was three miles to that place where we might buy a small coke or 7-up or, my favorite, Sprig — do they make Sprig anymore? — in a glass bottle.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your dismay about our society of fearful busybodies – you have said it all so well. Thank you, and have a wonderful holiday!

    1. I’d never heard of Sprig. I found that Nesbitt manufactured it as a basic lemon-lime drink, back in the days when I was drinking Nesbitt’s orange soda.

      In June, 1976, Nesbitt became part of the Clorox company and ceased to exist independently. They may have allowed some of their trademarks to expire, because when I snooped around, I found that a reformulated Sprig is being produced. The company making it now has added a very special ingredient: an infusion of that well known herb called Cannibis! I noticed that it’s in a can now, rather than a glass bottle.

      I see it’s being marketed through retail outlets only in California. I suppose even there, a few busybodies are on patrol, trying to convince Sprig enthusiasts of the error of their ways. Ah, me.

      Happy Fourth to you, too!

  10. You have good memories to share, but you also made very good points of how people seem to be afraid to have fun, enjoy, etc. We’ve become so fearful. Some of the improvements are good, and some as you pointed makes you wonder. The summer at least from where I am is short, and it’s important to remember that the summer time is meant to have fun especially as a child. Happy Independence Day from your Cdn. Neighour.

    1. Tamara, I couldn’t help laughing at the latest bulletin proclaiming doom. It’s raw cookie dough, this time. I have nothing against advisories, and I take my own precautions — no pre-packaged salad greens for me — but honestly? I’m going to keep right on eating that spoonful or two of raw dough when I bake cookies.

      Of course, I don’t wipe down the handle of my shopping cart, either, so I’m probably a hopeless case. But it’s the simple truth that if we become anxious about everything the government (or others) tell us is worthy of anxiety, we’ll have no energy or time left for any summer fun. Right now, the days are long, and the pleasures are many. It’s important to enjoy them, every one. I hope your Canada Day was delightful — thanks for your good wishes for our special day.

      1. I love raw cookie dough!
        I did have a good Canada Day. Yes enjoying the sun, blue sky, cool breezes in the morning, and everything else that is the summer!

  11. You “spark” two recollections with this delightful post. (And I do love how you slip in a bit of a moral to the story.) The first is a friend from Iowa who told the story of leaving the groaning board of food out overnight, in the event anyone got peckish. (I was amazed; I’d never heard of such a thing.) There was mayonnaise involved, and a tablecloth placed over the whole lot. Everyone who partook the next day got sick. She just laughed; everyone recovered, and they did the same thing year after year.

    The other story is really just a saying. The daughter of a woman I worked with had a baby, and the daughter fretted mightily every time her child put her hands in dirt . . . and then immediately in her mouth. My colleague rolled her eyes at this and told me, as she’d told her daughter, “God made dirt, and dirt don’t hurt.”

    1. I paused over “peckish,” and finally looked it up. I’ve always understood it in terms of its second meaning: easily irritated or annoyed. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it used to refer to hunger. On the other hand, the two meanings aren’t necessarily opposed. A hungry person could be more easily irritated or annoyed.

      We never left whole meals on the table overnight, but a variation on the tablecloth trick was usual. Grandma always kept a spooner, a sugar bowl and creamer, and a plate or two of treats on the table, with one of her embroidered dish towels thrown over it — just in case someone wanted coffee. I still have the spooner, creamer, and sugar bowl, and use them regularly, but I’ve foregone the dish towel.

      As for dirt? Just last night, a group of us were sharing stories around the table, and I mentioned two of my favorites: the teacher who rubbed dirt on my skinned knee and told me to get back on the playground, and the grade school classmate who ate spoonsful of dirt for a nickel. He certainly didn’t die, and as far as I know, he never became ill from it. I think he knew his limits — and he liked the attention that came with all of us wondering when he’d do it next.

  12. You sure sparked a lot of good memories from long, long ago when common sense and good judgement still existed along with personal responsibility and accountability and the enjoyment of simple things was a big part of everyday life. Those of us who still remember must become the teachers.

    1. I agree with you about the importance of becoming teachers, Terry — even knowing that, just like in every school, there will be some unwilling or disinterested students.

      I was thinking the other day about a phrase I haven’t heard in a good while: “Don’t make such a production out of it.” We live in a society where “making a production” out of everything seems to be the norm, and it can be a little exhausting. A bad day isn’t necessarily Armageddon, and a really nice day doesn’t have to be the best! really! incredible! day ever! Simple pleasures and quiet appreciation suit me better, I think.

  13. Warm, comforting, and lovely memories. I love the rules “don’t fight” and “if you fight, don’t hurt anyone.” It is so full of understanding of the nature of kids, with a recognition that certain things are bound to happen, but be responsible that no one gets hurt. Lovely post as always.

    1. It’s true, Oneta. More often than not, we were left to settle disputes among ourselves — and we learned a good bit.

      With my pink plaid glass frames, I had to put up with being called “four eyes,” but I got over it with a little help from my mother. And when the boys mixed it up after school, as they sometimes did, there was more trading of insults than physical fighting. Remember, “So’s your old man!” and “Yeh, well – your mother wears combat boots”? Sometimes I think I grew up in a Little Rascals comedy.

      But you’re right — the memories are great, and some of the lessons held. Even the ones that didn’t stick at first have proven recoverable.

  14. You left out the rasping drone of cicadas and the rustling of the breeze through the Siberian elms that sometimes sounds like surf on a shallow sandy beach. I always liked the sprinklers that had a long wand perforated by holes that played the water from side to side. The motion was activated by the water pressure. Alas those sprinklers didn’t last too long in our hard water. They got deposits and refused to work right.

    As to your other point, https://www.booksie.com/posting/barg/blow-dryers-and-their-negative-effect-on-the-evolution-of-the-human-species-134907

    1. I did leave out the cicadas, didn’t I? Honestly, I don’t remember hearing them until I moved to Houston in ’73. I suppose they were around when I was growing up, but the sounds of summer I remember best are robins singing, the sound of rotary lawn mowers, and metal roller skates on concrete.

      I see that Iowa does have cicadas. I just took a look at the 17 year cycle, and found something interesting. They last came out in 2014. Backing it up by 17-year increments, I discovered they would have come out in 1946 (the year I was born), 1963 (junior in high school), 1980 (in Berkeley), 1997 (Texas). No wonder I don’t remember their “big years.”

      As soon as I got to the Crayola, I knew who’d written the piece. It’s funny as can be, and on point. Apparently, they’re breeding faster than we ever anticipated. Even Forbes got into the act, with their list of the 24 dumbest warning labels, ever. My personal favorite? “Do Not Hold the Cutting End of This Chainsaw.”

  15. Wow–did you and I grow up together? You just described my childhood, too, right down to the bookmobile and the Vacation Bible School (but you forgot to mention riding in the back of the pickup truck, with the dogs, to get soft ice cream!) I love your post and the larger points you make about freedom and depth of experience. Happy and *free* Fourth of July–go run through a sprinkler!

    1. Well, we didn’t have a truck, and there wasn’t a dog, but there certainly was the A&W root beer stand (for floats and breaded tenderloin sandwiches) and of course the Dairy Queen, for those chocolate dipped cones.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. We seem to be a little fuzzy these days on the truth that freedom and responsibility belong together, but I’m still hopeful that some of the wisdom of past generations will become apparent to those who’ve had remarkably easy lives. In the meantime, we’ve made it through another year as a nation. Here’s hoping the next one is easier. Happy Independence Day!

  16. For me the memory of summer will always be the bang of a screen door, the wailing of a child and some adult shaking their head as they say, “that’ll learn ya”

    1. And that wailing child would be…. Oh, never mind. I think I know.

      The slap of the screen door was another great summer sound, no matter whether we were coming or going. A screen door doesn’t do anything except say, “I’m here,” or “I’m going, but I’ll be back.” You can talk through a screen door, or watch the sunset, or keep an eye on a child. We need more screen doors.

      Happy July 4th!

  17. I absolutely love the first sentence of this post, “Long ago and far away, when metal feed-store thermometers dangled next to mops and buckets on the back stoop, heat indices weren’t yet in fashion.” It creates such a vivid word picture that closely describes my memories of the home where I grew up. .

    There have been concerns about fireworks safety for a long time. I even did a post awhile back on how a hundred years ago they thought that fireworks might go out of style now that electricity could light up cities for the 4th and other special events.

    https://ahundredyearsago.com/2012/07/04/are-fireworks-old-fashioned/

    1. How interesting that electricity was seen as “the answer” for those darned fireworks! I’d love to bring back some of those people, so they could see what’s happened over the last century. It really is a little amusing that now we have the electricity, but the fireworks are bigger and better — at least, in the cities. And for those not in the big cities, there’s always television. That would be a surprise, too!

      I’m glad you liked that first sentence. Of course, back then, there was something even more basic: a conversation that went, “Hot enough for you?” “Yup.” The actual air temperature, or the “feels like” temperature didn’t make any real difference. There was work to be done, and they did it. We both absorbed some of those values.

      Happy 4th to you. I am making the Sunshine Cake for tomorow — I’m anxious for my first bite.

  18. What delightful memories you’ve written about, Linda! By the time I came along, my folks had bought into the “protect mantra.” No fireworks or sparklers for me (other than the ones put on by “experts”). No all-day picnic either. I guess I didn’t miss them at the time, but the way you’ve described it, a big part of me knows I missed out on something mighty special.

    Happy Fourth of July, my friend — may we always relish our independence and freedoms!

    1. Debbie, it’s also true that traditions vary from place to place, and from family to family. I’m sure there were things about your celebrations that I would have enjoyed, — or maybe even preferred, because they would have been exotic. I still remember being certain that my great-aunt outside Baton Rouge lived the most desirable life in the world. Beds made of Spanish moss? Lemon trees in the backyard? It beat cornfields and cow by a mile, in my young opinion!

      I was lucky to have a father who balanced my mother’s tendency toward over-protectiveness. Mom was all, “Oh, honey, I don’t think…” and Dad was forever saying, “Let the kid do what she wants.” Thank goodness I had them both!

      A happy Fourth to you, and to Domer, too, if you happen to talk. I put out some blueberries, strawberries, and shelled sunflower for the birds: they can have a patriotic feast of their own!

      1. Linda, I love that you’re the poster child of tact — thank you for not making me feel my childhood was a bust!! You’re very lucky having the dad you did. I loved my dad, but he was forever acquiescing to my mom because, as he was quick to point out, he had no sisters and thus, no experience with girls! And she was super-overprotective. I know your birds loved their feast.

  19. What great memories this brought back Linda. Running through the hose was a great way to cool off. much more fun than jumping into someone’s swimming pool.

    It was the unexpectedness of all those wonderful escapades. What happened to the picnics, the parades, all those great sparkly things? What happened to our core values? When did penny candy become a $2 chocolate bar? When did parents become too protective to allow their kids to grow up? Are these same kids subconciously provoking their parents to try to welcome a discipline? The overuse of “Purell” to clean our hands has only served to make the bugs immune.

    Happy 4th Linda, wave a couple of sparklers for me.

    1. Not all is gone, Kayti. Here in my town, there was a Teddy Bear parade this morning (to benefit the Historical Society) and it’s Citizen Appreciation Day down at the park, with the Mayor and Council serving hot dogs and other traditional foods to everyone in town. The city band will play patriotic songs, a few kids will get lost, and the folks brought over from the assisted living homes will sit and beam. I’m not going this year — I’ll be fighting the Houston traffic instead — but I know it’s happening, and it makes me happy.

      You’re right that the unexpected was a great part of the fun, but the routine was nice, too. Sometimes, knowing what to expect is comforting: an assurance from the past that there will be a future.

      Enjoy every minute of your day. Celebrate the fact that the Republic’s still standing — and we still can get penny candy, even if it costs a nickel!

  20. Brilliantly written! It’s good to hear the voice of reason. Society has become hysterically over-protective and now stifles children as well as over indulging them. Accidents happen, it’s part of life and no one can prevent them. Freedom is a wonderful thing, as I know, I was allowed to run around a mountain as a child….I was almost feral and gloriously happy. I fell from swings and trees, nearly drowned a couple of times and cut and sprained most parts of me….but here I am to tell the tale.xxx

    1. It’s the truth, isn’t it? Accidents are just that. We trip, we fall, the other driver behaves badly, the knife slips. It’s just the way it is. Life is filled with opportunities for things to go terribly wrong, and mitigating risk is always good. But we can only mitigate that risk: not eliminate it.

      I’ve not thought about it in quite these terms, but you’re right that over-protectiveness and indulgence often go together. Anyone who’s paid attention knows what happens to a cat or dog when the same person alternately pets them and strikes at them. We may be doing the same thing to a generation of kids. It could explain a lot.

    1. Thanks, Camellia. I’m glad you enjoyed it. You certainly would have enjoyed meeting a couple that I shared the afternoon with yesterday. They split their time between Houston and Mississippi and are great gardeners, as well. By the time they got done telling about their acres of daffodils, I was ready for it to be spring again. But first — we have to enjoy the seasons to come!

      1. oh what a wonderful time! yes, I am always ready for springtime! acres of daffodils! I have a friend who has a farm, they plant so many daffodils that each spring they have a daffodil party- with cake and food, live music etc.. everyone can go pick a bouquet! love love your blog!

  21. I just supported a blog (US) where someone complained how for days leading up to the 4th of July, and for days after that event, some yobo neighbours kept on letting off crackers and bangers. She complained that her dogs and pets were cowering for days on end, totally traumatized.

    Here in Australia, crackers and fireworks are not available except through application and permission. Local shires usually organise cracker nights as a community event held in parks.

    New Year Eve is a really big event and millions are drawn to the display, many ending up in front of Sydney’s famous Harbour Bridge. The fireworks are awesome!

    I agree that children ought to be allowed to have freedoms unfettered by overly concern. I think the driving to and fro schools is an example of how bad and restrictive society has become. (However, the freedom to bear arms in the US is something I really struggle with.)

    Very nicely written, Linda, with childhood memories so sweetly glazed. Children used to go through some very risky events. I remember falling in a water-lock whereby canal boats used to be helped through different water levels. Holland has a very complex system of ridding itself of excess water, being for a large part below sea-level.

    It was winter and I was hopping above the rushing waters below, from wooden beam to wooden beam. They were frosted over. I slipped and fell but managed to cling to a beam above the swirling water.

    Fortunately, the lock- master saw it and pulled me out and gave me a good smack. I never went back to that adventure play-ground. I still shiver when I think how close I came in not being here.

    1. Well, your blogging friend wouldn’t have that problem here. In Houston and most of the surrounding communities, including my own, sparklers and “poppers” are allowed, but most other fireworks are illegal. Of course there always are a few who set them off anyway, but we don’t have the aggravation of all that noise.

      It does depend on where you live. Regulations vary from town to town and county to county. In most unincorporated or rural areas — including the beaches, except in state parks — they’re allowed. If the lady is concerned, she might do well to become involved in changing the law where she lives.

      I suspect most of us who have a few years behind us have looked back to realize that one experience or another could have led to our not being here. For me, it was an auto accident — a rather bland term for being rear-ended on a Houston freeway while going 65 mph. It was only after I went back to look at the car that I thought, “Oh, my.” That was long ago, but I’m still grateful to the fellow who stopped to check on me. The car was totaled, but I was mostly fine. You never know.

  22. Neighbors down the road a mile, Dad’s brother and his family, grandparents all gathered on the 4th to have a good time. Lots of foods, home made ice cream, cake, pie, etc. Kids set off fireworks behind each other. We set off the tiny lady finger firecrackers in our hands. Sparklers were everywhere. https://ourviewfromiowa.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/79jul011.jpg

    It’s a wonder we didn’t get hurt badly by some of the dumb stuff we did. After dark, we had a aerial display.

    1. I think it must have been something like the lady fingers that our dads would set off on the sidewalk. We never messed with those — the black snakes, sparklers, and sparking tin toys were our limit. It was wonderful fun to make patterns of light with the sparklers — that’s a great photo.

      I talked to a friend from down the coast last night, and she said it was quieter than usual this year. Her hypothesis was that shooting off fireworks is equivalent to burning bundles of money, and it may be that people are choosing to spend their discretionary dollars on ribs and beer rather than fireworks.

  23. Great memories of childhood in the ’50s and a time when one learned, really LEARNED, just how far to push the envelope. Yes, we fell, scraped knees and perhaps someone actually lost an eye. But the lessons were shared and the mistakes never repeated.

    Great post, Linda!

    1. Your reference to losing an eye reminded me of the wonderful film. “A Christmas Story.” Poor Ralphie — longing for that BB gun, but hearing his mother say, over and over, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

      Sometimes I suspect another part of the problem is that people have become so disconnected from the natural world they don’t recognize certain threats, or know how to protect against them. Useful caution depends on knowledge: recognizing the tree that isn’t strong enough to climb; seeing that the tire swing rope has frayed; knowing that you don’t swim in rip currents; and so on.

      Ah, well. The truth is there are dangers associated with obsessive video gaming or social media use, too. They’re just not as recognizable, since they don’t require band-aids.

  24. We are not being treated to a fireworks display courtesy of our neighbor this year. I think he has been blasting them off in his yard for the last 20 or so years. He did last year after his wife passed away and, although I have no idea if she was the impetus for the displays, he isn’t doing one this year. Mary Beth would go over and visit while enjoying the show. I am not very fond of crowds so never did. With a new pup in the house we are both just as glad to not have him experience that so soon after joining us.

    I don’t have a problem with folks being a little overzealous with their warnings and concerns. I don’t really think many people cancel whatever plans and celebrations they may have based on such warnings, but I do think there is more caution practiced as a result. While the majority of fireworks, sparklers etc don’t result in injuries, just one child with lost sight is one too many. As long as people exhibit common sense and safety then it’s a great way to pay homage to our independence. But as we’ve seen with some of the stupid people tricks in our national parks lately, caution seems to be at an all time low.

    1. I hit reply before writing how wonderfully descriptive and poetic the opening to this post is, Linda. I am at a loss for the correct word that I want to use….lyrical isn’t right but it hints at what I mean.

      1. Ah, and now I don’t feel so bad as I just saw the title of this blog once more and the ongoing search for just the right words. Unfortunately I still haven’t found it, but at least my search has company.

        1. Actually, you’ve reminded me that I was thinking about re-posting the story of how that blog title came to be. It’s pretty interesting, and many people who’ve come along in the past three or four years may not know it. I hardly can believe I’ve kept this blog going for eight years. And to think I wasn’t sure when I started that i could find enough to write about!

          1. I think that I remember reading something at one point regarding you starting the blog, maybe I somehow went to the beginning or About, not sure. But a repost is a good idea and good for you to see where it has taken you…and us.

    2. it is good that Bentley didn’t have to cope with a wild, loud night. When there still was a show put on over Clear Lake, it was close enough that Dixie Rose got nervous. Generally, it wasn’t under-the-bed nervous, but there were some wide eyes and an occasional huddle under the dining room table.

      Anything more than sparklers, black snakes, or poppers aren’t legal here, so lawn displays don’t happen. In unincorporated areas, or some towns, they’re often allowed. it’s generally a local decision.

      That caveat about common sense is important. Unfortunately, common sense sometimes goes out the window. There was a fifteen-year-old boy who was badly injured this weekend, and who may have lost his sight. He was injured by sparklers, but if you read the details, you find that the kid taped together 180 sparklers, added a fuse to make it into a sparkler bomb, and then lit the thing.

      He had a history of making sparkler bombs, so perhaps a little parental guidance thrown into the mix could have helped prevent things from going the way they did. Personally, I’d never heard of taping sparklers together, but I discovered that you can find directions for making the things on YouTube. I guess if it’s good enough for meth labs and special herb growers, it’s good enough for sparkler bombers.

    3. You know, I just remembered something. During my junior high days, we didn’t need sparkler bombs. We had the original cherry bombs and M-80s. I never actually possessed one, and never saw one lit and thrown, but certain boys considered it high fun to throw one down a school toilet, or put one in a mailbox. I see that they finally were banned in 1966. I guess every generation has their own way of making something go “BOOM!”

      1. Around here, the top uses were the same as there-mailboxes and toilets. The only ones I ever shot off were the little ones the size of birthday cake candles, I can’t recall what they were called, but there 100 per package.

  25. Oh, how this beautifully written essay took me right back to my own early years in Minnesota. All those precious memories of the July 4th parade, the corner grocery store with its supply of candy corn, tootsie rolls and big red wax lips to chew. Dentine gum was a favourite as was the counter selling hot roasted nuts in the five and ten cent store. I saved up for two small turtles that made great little pets. Those were the days of running free, enjoying the simple things of life, and living in a happy and secure home. I treasure my memories.

    1. Yes, ma’am! We had those red wax lips, too. And don’t forget the Sen-Sen, or the licorice, or the Walnettos, Mary Janes, and horehound. Thank goodness for the Vermont Country Store, and a certain old-fashioned candy counter in Galveston, where some of those old treats still can be purchased.

      I had one of those little turtles, too — such fun. And of course we caught lightning bugs in jars, kept them over night, and then released them the next day. We always were careful to add grass and a little water, so they felt more at home.

      Simplicity, happiness, and security — those are ingredients that help to form happy and secure adults.

  26. Happy 4th of July. May the beautiful description of this post inspire us all to stay young at heart. Here’s to sparklers! Granddaughters here in Portland just waved them around before depositing in a bucket of water. Here’s to the stunning writer, Linda!

    1. Now it’s the 5th, but the 4th was lovely. Six adult people gathered for a meal and conversation, and in the process discovered some connections — always fun.

      Speaking of staying young at heart, I was talking with my aunt in Kansas City recently. She just turned 90, and she told me she’s decided what she’s going to do to celebrate in the upcoming year: ziplining. She said she’s always wanted to fly like a bird, and she’s decided that ziplining is the way for her to do it.

      It reminded me of the wonderful video of the Kiwi bird who wanted to fly. If you haven’t seen it, I know you’ll enjoy it. If you have seen it, you’ll enjoy it again.

  27. An important contribution, and so I say thanks. This sort of thing is rife in the academic world, and when enacted in concert with a mania for data collection, utterly stifles creativity, meaningful analysis and a rich learning environment. Thankfully, humans learn to subvert this in this way or that, and so here and there play is found, rejoicing breaks out and learning persists.

    1. The stories coming out of American colleges and universities are remarkable, to say the least, and it doesn’t surprise me that you’ve experienced some of the same dynamics.

      As for the mania for data collection, that seems to be spreading everywhere. I’ve not gone tin-foil-hattish over it, but if someone wants information I think they have no need to have, I simply don’t provide it. It does tickle me that every place that makes me sign one of those privacy forms seems to believe that, when it comes to their questions, I have no right to privacy. Ah, me!

    1. Perhaps if more adults stopped acting like children, war would be less of an issue. If we could stop internet “flame wars,” it might be a small first step toward stopping other kinds of war.

      Speaking of beautiful children, I’ve seen yours this morning. I’ll be by soon for a better look at the photos.

  28. I would dare any “self-appointed experts or general busy-bodies” to come between me and my potato salad.

    Two things I recall in particular from summer vacation – camp ‘Smile A-While’. It was awful, and after my brother and I begged and begged mother agreed to retrieve us. Now I feel bad that we ruined her summer vacation.

    Another was summer reading. I would keep a list of all the books I read from the library – to be turned in at school once classes began again. It was sort of a competition, I think – or at least a way to encourage students to read. I would give anything – except potato salad, of course – to find that list again.

    1. I believe you, Aubrey — and those busy-bodies need to be especially sure that they avoid potato-salad policing on your birthday.

      I still remember the thrill of walking up the metal steps into the bookmobile, and seeing those shelves and shelves of books: the little kids’ books down low, and the ones for older (and taller) readers higher up. We could check out ten books at a time, as I recall. Even though the bookmobile came twice a week, those ten books rarely lasted until the next visit.

      It would be fun to have a list of the books I read, but I’m fairly sure I didn’t have any list. It was a free reading extravaganza –one of the best kinds of freedom.

  29. Happily, the explosions here are over for another year. Some of the noise-makers had quite a percussive shock, which was…not fun. These days I can only think of those who actually live with the real bombs blasting their neighborhoods and lives away and I don’t think it’s a bad thing to stop for a split second during the celebrations and give a thought to those people.

    Can you imagine raising a child in that? Or, so often, a parent-less child grows up in that. Some extraordinary adults will come from these monstrous events and I hope they will be great and compassionate leaders and thinkers. Not really the point of your post, but this was my thought for the 4th.

    1. To tell you the truth, Martha, during the gatherings I attended over the weekend, there wasn’t any discussion of suicide bombings, Baghdad, Brexit, the presidential campaign, politicians generally, or the decline and fall of anyone’s empire.

      Some of us were old friends — nearly fifty years now — and others of us had just met. We talked about gardening, family members, and new places for landscape photography. We drank a little wine, swapped recipes, compared notes on places we’d visited, and shared pet stories.

      And I’ll not apologize for that. None of us are insensitive, or given to ignoring events in the wider world. But there needs to be a rhythm to life: a time and a place for relaxation and enjoyment, for the kind of remembering that old friends do, and for the delightful discoveries that occur as new friendships are being formed.

      Someone much wiser than me said something about that once, and Pete Seeger made the words into a fine, true song. Judy Collins has several good versions, but I still enjoy this one.

  30. Yes. That was summer. Whole house fans. Tossing in warm rooms at night. Reading in the shade. Entertaining ourselves – lots of begging for scraps of paper, boxes, glue – and a few backyard shows (many never happened despite the struggling over the scripts and hand copying one for each person and all the “auditions” – because we got tired of all the preparations and decided to go to the pool instead).

    So much learned informally – without any adult instructions. And somehow we were all kinder, too – even though there were spats, shortly everyone got back together. (Lesson learned: not everyone will like you and you won’t like everyone and that’s OK. Just go find someone else to play with.) Small dangers and consequences when young, like penny firecrackers, taught kids to understand pain, and think and plan to avoid it. Understood pain when others felt it, too – compassion gained.

    Enjoyed your reply to Martha. But I won’t get into all that. Or what our friend from Bangladesh said about the recent situation there – he and his family fled in the 80’s after a terrifying knock on the door and commands involving religion…left with nothing. And that was not caused by us or this country – a loooong chain of historical events and philosophical conflicts must be recognized to be understood.

    Yes, perfect song for the occasion.

    1. And there’s one of the keys: “so much learned informally, without any adult instruction.” Denying children that privilege isn’t just denying them the content of the lessons learned — it’s denying them the opportunity to learn *how* to learn. The same goes for imagination. All that cloud watching sharpened the ability to make connections, envision alternate realities, and tell stories about what we saw.

      You’re right about pain and compassion, too — and the matter-of-fact way we were taught that not everyone would be friends. And I really regret that the lunchroom tradition of trading food has gone by the wayside. If a kid who has carrot sticks really wants that oatmeal cookie, and the cookie possessor is willing to make the trade: good enough. Of course, I suppose oatmeal cookies have gone by the wayside, too. Demon sugar, and all that.

      1. Good intentions doing more harm than good. Somehow all those old proverbs and country sayings are meaning more to me these days.(Those are another thing that should be returned to school rooms K-12. Hey, good discussion point and higher level thinking…can I sell them with that? HA HA)

  31. Amen. I blame Tylenol for all this. That first scare initiated all the tamper proof packaging that no one in the world can open without a box cutter or very strong hands! Sometimes I feel like the world is over-coddled. Every kid gets a trophy, Everyone is protected.

    I will say I was an overprotected kid but I still had the freedom to play, to light those sparklers. Yes, there was supervision but it came from the parents, the teachers. I remember catching tadpoles in the swamp with my cousins (and squealing when one picked up a snake) and you know, we COULD have fallen in that swamp, we could have caught something ugly, but we didn’t. We learned life “on the job.” Some of the lessons were harder than others, but they were learning experiences.

    All that said, I hate the Fourth of July. I love the concept. I love a parade if I see one and a great dinner and even watching the approved big ol’ fireworks displays. But I wish they’d ban the bigger personal fireworks in Michigan. Too many people abuse them — and by that I mean not being careful of where they use them (like, for example, in the woods where I am!) and they’ll do it for DAYS, not just the fourth, and they’ll do it till 2 a.m. Every dog and cat around is either barking or hidden under the bed. Let’s go back to the days of sparklers — supervise the young’uns and be careful where you walk the day after!

    1. That’s interesting, that your fireworks continue for such a long time. In Texas, the days they can be purchased and used are limited by statute. Cities here are free to ban them entirely, and in unincorporated areas, you either have to set them off on your own property, or have written permission from the person whose land you’re using. We do have other days when they can be used — like San Jacinto Day and New Year’s Eve — but the same restrictions apply.

      I’ve wondered now and then if the 2010-2011 drought hasn’t reduced their use, too. They were banned in most places then — perhaps even statewide — and it doesn’t seem to me that there has been as much flash and bang since.

      Our laws on the kind of fireworks you can have are fairly generous, but the accidents and aggravations around here tend to be minimal. I did read today about a guy whose homemade cannon exploded — there’s always something.

      I think every kid in the world figures out two of life’s basic lies pretty quickly. One is, “This hurts me more than it does you,” and the other is, “I’m doing this for your own good.” Eventually, we grow up, figure out what constitutes “our own good,” and set off to pursue it — waving our sparklers as we go!

      1. I love it! Life’s two basic lies! You’re right.

        I wish we had your fireworks laws. Someone was still shooting some off last night — probably leftovers. I suppose they think they are at the lake so it’s OK. And it has been so dry. But so far, no issues. Fingers crossed they stop!

  32. I couldn’t agree more, Linda. And it is in every aspect of life~ just try, for example, to build a tiny home on a lot, or allow your grass to get a little long, or scold your dog. Furthermore, as people feel more and more compressed by rules, many are becoming increasingly unruly. They take their position far beyond reason. So we have a nation that can’t decide whether it should ban all guns whatsoever or embrace A-K47s in every home. We are losing our middle ground, our common sense.

    1. You’ve reminded me of the year one of my dear friends took on her Civic Association. She doesn’t garden, but she has a bit of a laid-back attitude which can lead to her yard filling up with buttercups, oxalis, and who knows what else. One morning, a pair of ladies with clipboards showed up and informed her that her yard was unslightly, and she needed to mow and trim immediately.

      My friend says it may have been the only time in her life she came up with the right answer at the right time. She remembered that the Civic Association also had designated the town a “wildflower sanctuary.’ She informed those women that she was allowing the flowers to go to seed, and that she would deal with the mowing once that had happened. Properly chastised, they took their leave. It was a true victory.

      As for the larger issue, the fact is that if you treat people like children, they will begin to act like children: impulsive, emotional, self-absorbed. One of our biggest problems, it seems to me, is that many of those acting like children have a few decades behind them, and now are doing things like running for political office, or trying to squash everyone who doesn’t agree with them. It doesn’t bode well for the republic, but I’m always hopeful!

  33. What a great post. I loved walking down memory lane with you. We did have a lot of freedom, didn’t we? Most kids today will never know. Sometimes I think parents should worry more about the harm that will come from too much time spent on various devices than a possible mishap. Of course, I can’t really recommend letting them run as far afield as we did. The world seems a less friendly place for children now. While I wouldn’t recommend it, we lived on the water and walked to the beach by ourselves and spent the afternoon when I was a kid. My brother was supposed to “watch” me. My mother would be arrested today.

    This was a fun post.

    1. I was listening to our outdoor show on the radio this morning, and was amazed by the number of fishing tournaments and events being sponsored for kids up and down the coast. The guy they were interviewing said that participation has been increasing steadily over the past 3-4 years. It seems that some kids are ready to put down the device, and get outdoors. There may yet be hope.

      Looking for ways to live freely takes some thought these days. Your news diet is one step down that path. There’s a huge difference between listening to someone’s speech and drawing our own conclusions, and listening to some talking head’s interpretation of the speech. LIkewise: there’s a difference between choosing what we’ll eat, and slavishly following the newest diet. And I don’t care what Marie Kondo says. I’m keeping the pine cones, the basket of rocks, the tumbleweed — and every one of my books!

      We keep talking like this, and the conformity police may come knocking at our door some day.

      Go have some fun this weekend!

  34. Always a joy to read your descriptions of childhood experiences, thinking back to some of mine that sound like some of yours.

    The only reason our neighbors stopped buying sparklers was because they’re so poorly made these days. Their desultory fizzle lasts only moments — probably some kind of safety measure.

    Mmm. I like the idea of a news diet. Not having a TV in the house or listening to the radio on my commute has helped tremendously in limiting the amount and kind of news I consume.

    1. I suspect that both of us have become increasingly selective over the past years in our news reading and social media participation. Every now and then I take a stroll through the comment sections of news outlets, or the so-called “discussions” on Twitter, and generally feel as though I need a shower. I’ve been saying it since beginning my blog, and it’s probably time to say it again: the programmers were right. Garbage in, garbage out. There are more elegant ways to say it, but we’re getting to the point where elegance may not be enough. Ah, me.

      I have come to enjoy life without television, and life without Facebook is possible. I understand that both have their place, and offer some real possibilities for connection, education, and so on. But there was connection before FB, and education before PBS. It’s a balancing act, for sure.

      That’s too bad, about the short-lived sparklers. They used to burn long enough that you could write your name in the air with them — twice!

      1. Yes, I quite agree — the opening up the comment section is like wading into a cesspool. If you get a chance, checkout the comment section on some UK news sites. I was pleasantly surprised many a time by the attentive (i.e, they actually read the article in question) and articulate nature of many commenters.

        1. I do drop by “The Guardian” from time to time, and the “Times Literary Supplement.” I’ve found that many journals, in many fields, also have adopted the practice of linking to articles on Twitter, so I’ve ended up following Nautilus, JSTOR Daily, Heterodox Academy, the Paris Review, and many plant sites. It’s a good way to be introduced to writers and viewpoints I otherwise would miss.

  35. Oh, and George gets grounded because he doesn’t come home when called. He’s often in a neighbor’s backyard or under their car. My neighbors don’t mind, but it’s the crossing the street that worries me. George is definitely not street smart. The other three cats stay in my yard 95% of the time so they retain their privileges.

  36. What a beautiful memories, what a beautiful writing, and what a beautiful time, once again, Happy Fourth of July,! Blessing and Happiness to you ALL and to your country, dear Linda, Love & Hugs, nia

    1. Thanks for your good wishes, Nia. Even with all of the problems we have, it’s still a wonderful country, and very much worth celebrating. Of course we can’t go back — life always moves forward. But days like our Independence Day are a good time to remember the values that brought us here. Some people just partied, but I suspect most people remembered.

    1. That sounds very much like the holy trinity of childhood, Maria: sprinklers, fireflies, and fireworks were natural companions for me, too. The best thing about the fireflies was that they stayed around longer than one night. We often caught them in a jar, kept them on the window sill overnight, and then turned them loose the next morning.

      They seemed to be declining here for a while, but this summer they’ve reappeared, in abundance. We don’t have them here, but up in the area of the hill country I visit, they’re thick around the springs and creeks running through the valleys.

      1. I saw them in Illinois for the first time. I couldn’t believe such animals existed. There might be fireflies here but at much higher altitudes. I think they thrive in temperate weather zones .

        1. I’m sure you’re right, Maria — that they thrive in temperate zones. They’re quite fond of damp conditions, too. In dry years, their numbers seem to decrease, and I most often see them rising up from streams and creek beds.

  37. Oh, all those joys. Fabulous retelling.
    People scorned “busybodies” and those nosy people “sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong”
    Independence, self reliance and willingness to take calculated risks along with any consequences (that’s how you learn) – that’s what childhood then prepared kids for: grounded adults.
    May the bright sparks once again be there.

    1. Listening to the reports out of Nice, it occurs to me we’d better hope for some grounded adults who can deal with reality. Living has become a calculated risk, and we need to recommit to the independence, self-reliance, and willingness to accept consequences we were raised with. Or so I think.

  38. What a great read, thanks for sharing. I agree wholeheartedly and only wish that more people could adopt the “care even more for life and freedom; for speaking with dignity and hearing truth; for celebrating and enjoying the gifts freely offered by the world” way of life

    1. It would be good, wouldn’t it? I was gone all day yesterday, and was both astonished and more than a little distressed to hear the news from Baton Rouge when i got home. It does occur to me that, despite what the media seems to show, such events still are aberrations, and not the norm. Perhaps if we all dedicated ourselves wholly to those values in our personal spheres, we could begin to reshape the larger world.

      Thanks for stopping, and commenting. i appreciate it. You’re always welcome here!

    1. Thanks so much. I suppose a nation full of overprotective parents eventually — and perhaps inevitably — leads to a nanny state. A little common sense would be welcome.

  39. Old childhood summer memories are the best. But you are right, we tend to over care for our children today. Most of the time, nothing happens, as you say, and if they slip running through that sprinkler, it’s just another lesson in life. We learn by failing and by doing mistakes. :-)

    1. Now and then, I suspect the anxiety exhibited by parents isn’t so much for something that might happen to their child, as it is for criticism they would receive from others if something happened to their child. Most of the time, the kids cope perfectly well, if only they’re given a chance.

      Sometimes, I see a similar dynamic at the other end of life, as well. I have some acquaintances who are given to statements like, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly make that trip (start that project, live alone, go for a walk by myself.) I’m too old. Something might happen.” Again, something might happen if we stay involved in life, but if we refuse life, something already has happened — and it’s not good.

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